Preaching Without Authority?


The middle of the 20th century saw preaching take an inductive turn. Tired of “top-down,” authoritative proclamation, Fred Craddock and others envisioned a new day for preaching. Preaching the new way would be more collaborative, more engaging, and less authoritative.

In his book As One Without Authority, Craddock proposes that the sermon is a journey which leaves its hearers to draw their own conclusions. As he says,

“Not only does inductive preaching demand of an outline that it be subordinate to movement; it demands that the outline, however it may look on paper, move from the present experience of the hearers to the point at which the sermon will leave them to their own decision and conclusion.”

Craddock is brilliant, and, as you can see below, he is a gifted preacher. He makes two very important points for preaching: (1) The sermon must connect with the present experience of its hearers; (2) the sermon will bring its hearers to a crisis–a moment of decision. Yet, it may also be the case that the preacher of the sermon needs to be more explicit in what he expects.

As I tell my preaching students, Christ’s preaching begins with “Repent!” It still seems necessary for preachers to include an authoritative “Repent” so that hearers might understand the urgency and severity of the gospel message.

Listen for yourself to this fine sermon from Fred Craddock. See if you sense something lacking. As good as the sermon is, it is missing the point of Christ’s preaching: Repent! for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.