The Craft of Preaching

A few years ago, my kids needed a play kitchen for Christmas. So I went down into the cellar, with a few boards, a circular saw, and a pocket-hole jig — and thus was born a hobby/minor-obsession with woodworking. Since then I have collected more tools than I dare list, subscribed to a few magazines and blogs, built a lot more stuff, and generally immersed myself in the craft of woodworking. It’s a very welcome diversion…. but it also relates back into preaching and the teaching of preaching.

In conversation, writing, and occasionally in homiletical literature, we refer to the “craft” of preaching. Now, woodworking is a real, honest-to-God craft. And usually when we call preaching a craft we don’t mean it so literally. But I began to wonder, what can the “craft” of preaching learn from the craft of woodworking — particularly with respect to how it is taught? Is there a pedagogy peculiar to the teaching of craft knowledge like woodworking, or other trades?

Usually these trades fall into vocational education (which preaching also is, by the way), and are taught as part of the ancient guild system of master-apprentice relationships. Preaching, on the other hand, is formally taught as a more academic discipline in a class-room setting at a seminary or theological school. Pedagogically, a class in preaching, for instance, probably shares more in common with a class in English literature and writing, than a class in woodworking. How come — if preaching is craft?

This question and line of thought is relatively new for me, but it’s very interesting — and gives me a good excuse to go make sawdust.

In 2014, I wrote a paper exploring these ideas for the Academy of Homiletics annual meeting. Here’s a link: Preaching As Craft – Patrick WT Johnson

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