Is progressive Christianity dangerous?
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — “We don’t want to be known for the…
David Wilson exhibits the trifecta of great gospel preaching: a love of God, a love for his people and a love for the truth.
Affectionately known as “The Expositor,” Wilson offers a unique blend of talents and experiences that enable him to explain the Word of God in an exciting and informative manner. He is senior minister for the Kings Church of Christ in Brooklyn, N.Y. The multicultural, multigenerational church of 500 members meets in East Flatbush and is launching a second site in Brownsville.
Educated at Southwestern Christian College, Oklahoma Christian University and Amridge University, Wilson counts among his mentors the late Arnelious Crenshaw and has helped focus the Kings congregation on community service and outreach.
In addition to preaching, he is an accomplished gospel songwriter. His compositions and arrangements are used by a cappella groups throughout Churches of Christ including S.W.C.C., Redeemed and Exodus.
He is supported by his loving wife, Cathi, and his children, David, Dyahnah and Dominic.
As The Christian Chronicle focuses on race relations in Churches of Christ 50 years after the tumultuous events of 1968, Wilson shared his thoughts on the characteristics of predominantly African-American churches. He also discussed the process of sermon preparation and the goals of preaching.
We offer this Dialogue in hopes of a deeper understanding among Churches of Christ across the nation.
There’s a unique preaching style in predominantly African-American congregations. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Stereotypes aside, there is a vast diversity of preaching styles within African-American pulpits.
Some are awesome storytellers who apply biblical principle through mind-blowing and heart-touching illustrations. Some are powerful defenders of the faith, proving the uniqueness of the church. Some are hermeneutically focused expositors who build two-way sermonic bridges between the contemporary and ancient worlds. Some are therapeutic counselors, providing answers, guidance and encouragement, meeting the audience in the context of their crisis.
Some preach in a rhythmic hum while others lecture in a conversational voice. Some roar like lions and then plead like beggars.
This diversity is not only in style, but also in degrees of effectiveness and relevance. All black churches are not poised for growth. Visionary leadership, community sensitivity and relevant biblical teaching are important factors. This results in different levels of spiritual health, ministerial competence and member maturity.
I have been told that a challenge to fuller integration of churches is the concern of some African-Americans that their unique culture will be lost in the process. Is that accurate?
I have heard such, but I wouldn’t presume to answer for all African-American churches.
Personally, I am not convinced that the integration of churches (assuming that means black and white congregations) is a directive or mandate of God through Scripture. I am not against it, but neither do I think that it is our primary mission.
Our unity is not about worship services but the embrace and manifestation of godly principles (Ephesians 4:1-7). Singing and praying together means nothing if we cannot be unified in our communities, our workplaces and in our Christian mission.
To be clear, keeping our mission and teaching authentic Christianity is how to save the world. This is how prejudice is abolished and sacrificial love is realized.
As a preacher, how do you define your role in the church?
Paul’s instruction to Timothy and Titus are sound directives for any preacher, in particular an evangelist.
The evangelist is charged with preaching the Word in 1 Timothy 4:1-5 and Titus 2:1-9. This is a solemn charge that should stir the heart of an evangelist.
1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-16 teach that the evangelist is to develop leaders. “Set things in order” is a clear statement of authority and responsibility. It goes hand in hand with the obligation to preach the Word.
The gifts of evangelists and pastors are to empower the church for works of service. The evangelist is tasked with the function of both ordaining qualified men to be elders or deacons and disciplining them if they disqualify themselves (1 Timothy 5:17-25).
While it is problematic for a leader to become dictatorial, it is equally problematic to regulate such a high calling to a hired hand, paid to preach.
What should be the goal of preaching today?
The Great Commission and Paul’s charge to Timothy encapsulate my philosophy of preaching.
• Evangelism: Preach and teach the Word with the goal of bringing someone to a decision to follow Christ. People need salvation desperately. Preaching Jesus and him crucified is still the solution.
• Edification: The life of Jesus is a transformative example. Christians must be taught how to live the abundant life in Christ through exposition of the Word.
• Correction: Christianity is the supreme philosophy above all other lifestyles, perspectives or practical doctrines. Learning this supreme philosophy often requires us to confront old ways and worldly attitudes. This is what preaching is designed to do — confront and expose sin and bring a believer to repentance and greater commitment.
• Hope: The Word is filled with hope. People need hope. This is the essence of the Gospel, the good news of salvation. Helping people to see past their present crisis, to envision and anticipate healing, deliverance and peace is the joy of preaching.
How do you determine what needs to be preached to your congregation?
During the summer I begin thinking of the next year’s theme for the church. I consider the church program in general, ascertaining what challenges or tasks are before us. I consider what is happening in the world and how the Word can help us to make sense, reveal God and find hope. I consider the mission and values of the church, asking the hard questions of our impact and focus. I consider the spiritual maturity of our membership and what ways growth can be encouraged.
By late fall and early winter I begin formulating a theme that will address these criteria throughout the new year. For example, this year’s theme, “Anything for the King!” helps us to embrace the right mind for our multi-site process and teaches cruciform living and ministry. The right theme will help ministers plan effective classes, sermon series and special programs. It also helps if certain sub-themes or seasonal dates are hard-wired into the year’s theme.
What process do you go through in preparing a sermon?
Once I have considered the theme, calendar and circumstances for a sermon, I answer these questions:
• What is the task of the lesson? Does it need to be evangelistic, instructive or encouraging?
A clear target is needed for relevant, pointed preaching. If I’m not clear on what needs to be done, then it will not be done clearly.
• What text best serves that purpose? This can be the most difficult part unless I’m in a series. It is also essential to avoid violating the Scriptures’ intent to serve my own. That is the difference between exposing the Scripture versus exploiting it.
• What does the text say? Sound exegesis is essential for building faith and developing maturity. Doing our best to be honest with the Word is to preach with integrity and conviction.
• What do I share from the text for my preaching task? The goal is to preach a sermon. The meaning should be shaped, presented and expounded succinctly and clearly.
• What do I want the audience to do? I believe that preaching should have purpose beyond a command to preach. That reason should not be discovered at the time of invitation; it should have been there from the start of the lesson. A practical application makes biblical study fruitful and the sermonic moment relevant. People listen differently when something is expected of them.
Most importantly, every part of this process is bathed in prayer.
Subscribe today to receive more inspiring articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox twice a month.
Your donation helps us not only keep our quality of journalism high, but helps us continue to reach more people in the Churches of Christ community.