What is prophetic preaching? Zach Mills, one of my collegues in the Modern Homiletics Theory course, summarized prophetic preaching as:
[P]reaching that creatively speaks-on behalf of others-of the injustices and inadequacies of the present and the hopeful possibilities of the future.
We often speak of prophetic preaching as primarily speaking truth to power and the powerful. Often we do not recognize the times to speak truth to those who wield power in our own sphere of influence. Dr. Brad Braxton, in a lecture at the Kelly Miller Smith Institute, stated that the prophetic witness cuts both ways. What we speak to power we must speak to ourselves. The lack of equality for women in the Black Church demonstrates that while we may speak of inequality in others we must in addition speak it to ourselves when it is needed.
To add to this important point, I also think that another thing that Mills brought out is very important. The idea that we should not totally divorce prophetic and pastoral preaching. Prophetic preaching definitely plays some pastoral roles. Going back to Mills’ definition, to speak for the oppressed and articulate their concerns gives voice to them and serves a pastoral function. In addition to provide a vision of a better day is pastoral.
I think that the difference between the two is one of emphasis and not totally separation. Prophetic preaching is something that all preachers must do on occasion. Some of us relish that job and others shy away from it, but if we are to be true preachers of the Gospel we must provide a vision of a better world and confront the powers in this world that would stand in the way of that vision.