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What Is The Black Preaching Tradition?

736px-15th-amendment-celebration-1870In the last week or so, I have had a couple of conversations regarding the Black Preaching Tradition and using it to improve sermonic construction, delivery, and reception.  One Black Preacher, when he found out that I was the primary contributor to SoulPreaching.Com, told me that he was seeking to implement elements of the tradition.  He then began to talk about some of the media preachers.  This preacher even called one of these media preachers a genius in Black Preaching. I asked him what was so appealing about the preacher. He then talked mostly about stylistic concerns.

My preacher friend fell into the trap of thinking that the Black Preaching Tradition is only about style.  He wanted to “preach black” and thus he attempted to incorporate the style of the popular preacher.  Certainly there is nothing wrong with learning from others, but we must not fall into the trap of thinking that this is all there is to the tradition.  Certainly there are stylistic concerns.  But there is also the tendency of the Black Preacher to address certain themes.  The tendency to look from the angle of the underdog and those who live “with their back against the wall.”  There is a tendency, in Black Preaching, to see the practical rather than a theoretical angle.  There is a tendency, in sermons according to the tradition, to see God on the side of humanity in real ways.  These concerns, and many other important ones, were lost on this preacher as he was attempting to just emulate the style, a style that can be used to preach anything, including things antithetical to the Gospel as well as what God has traditionally used the African American Preacher to preach.

In the seminar that I just presented, we talked about the Black Preaching Tradition in terms of Style, Sermonic Structure, Bible Interpretive Approach, and Common Folk Theology.  These dimensions are all aspects of the tradition.  To diminish or ignore one is to not address the full counsel. Someone may shout. Someone may whoop, but that don’t make them stand in the line of the great tradition that gave us birth.  Let’s be true to the whole tradition and not abuse it for a “cheap shout.”