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Baptist preaching and Baptist preachers--past and present.

Since the founding of the Baptist faith, preaching has been the dominant event in Baptist worship, and preachers have been at the forefront of this faith movement.

Over the years, Baptist preaching and Baptist preachers have often been stereotyped. Stories have been repeatedly told about ranting, raving Baptist preachers who only preach sermons on hell and damnation. Other stories have been told about emotional Baptist preachers who can move entire congregations to tears with elaborate, heartwarming tales. These stereotypes, like most stereotypes, do have some factual basis. Baptists have tended to adopt particular preaching styles. Those styles have changed over times, and certain styles tend to dominate in various regions of the country. Despite these patterns, the truth is that much diversity has always existed among Baptist preachers in the United States, both in their preaching style and their sermon content.

Diversity has also long existed with regard to Baptist preachers themselves. Since their beginnings in America, Baptist churches have had preachers whose backgrounds have been widely diverse and whose educational training, economic status, and theological beliefs have differed sharply. Thus, from their early days, a "typical" Baptist preacher has not existed.

While Baptist preaching has always been characterized by diversity, the extent of that diversity has significantly multiplied during the past thirty years. This growing diversity is immediately evident when one reviews the ethnic make-up of a few state and national Baptist organizations. In 2005, 125 language mission congregations affiliate with the Tennessee Baptist Convention, and on any given Sunday, Tennessee Baptist preachers speak in around thirty different languages and dialects. In the Northwest Baptist Convention, which has approximately 430 affiliated churches and missions, members in more than 135 of these congregations speak one of seventeen different languages. The California Southern Baptist Convention has approximately 1,800 language and multi-ethnic congregations, and each week throughout the state, the gospel is preached in some sixty different languages. Given this incredible and quickly growing ethnic diversity within Baptist congregations in the United States, the corresponding reality is that Baptists now have even greater diversity when it comes to preaching and preachers.

This issue of the journal is dedicated to reviewing Baptist preaching of the past and to exploring Baptist preaching of the present. Charles Bugg's article offers an excellent overview of Baptist preaching. Thomas McKibbens's two excellent articles--one on John Broadus and one on Baptist preachers as bridge builders--provide insight into Baptist preachers of the past. Lee Canipe's article introduces us to the connection between two unlikely preachers of the early twentieth century. John Ashley Nixon, in his article on Virginia Baptists, reviews the contributions Baptist preaching made to the growth of churches in that state. In his article on Reuben Ross, Timothy Mohon traces the changing beliefs of this nineteenth-century preacher, beliefs that were most often spelled out in Ross's sermons.

To explore current trends in Baptist preaching, three active Baptist preachers wrote essays about their experiences in preaching. These three preachers--a woman pastor, a Vietnamese pastor, and a bi-vocational pastor--represent the increasing diversity in Baptist pulpits. Another article on current trends in preaching, written by Bernadette Glover-Williams, addresses the shift in methodologies that have been used to teach preaching to Baptist students.

Finally, this issue not only offers historical information about preachers and evaluation of preaching; it includes two Baptist sermons: one by a seventeenth-century English Baptist pastor, Thomas Hardcastle, and one by our friend, Baptist historian and preacher extraordinaire, Walter B. Shurden.
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Author:Durso, Pamela R.
Publication:Baptist History and Heritage
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Mar 22, 2005
Previous Article:Wonderful Words of Life: Hymns in American Protestant History and Theology.
Next Article:Baptist History and Heritage, 1965-2005.

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