corinthian corners

Yesterday I handed in my marks for the MTh module that I teach here at SAIACS in Bangalore. Then it dawned on me ... I had just finished my twenty-fifth consecutive year of teaching preaching in the classroom. Even when I have been on sabbatical, a course, or two, has been squeezed in, here and there. There have been students from all the different academic levels: Certificate, Diploma, Degree, Masters, and Doctoral. When I teach preaching, I feel God's pleasure. Always have (apart from the occasional blip).

Early on in those years, I started devising my own model of teaching preaching. Philips Brooks' 'truth through personality' was no longer sufficient. A four corner model emerged - and keeps evolving, eventually becoming the five corner model I used in this recent module (see below).

But a few months ago Tim Keller's new book fired my imagination for a new and necessary horizon: is there a biblical basis for these five corners? Keller opens up with 1 Corinthians 1.18 - 2.5 and as I read and re-read the passage, I became more and more convinced that the model was embedded in Paul's philosophy. I hatched a plan. I made it an assignment for this eager bunch of 30 MTh students at SAIACS. Some A+ quality work was returned (including one from a young man from Myanmar) and I am now convinced of the legitimacy of the links. All five corners are there in the Pauline approach to preaching...

So - drum roll, please ... I can announce that the Corinthian Columns of the first century have now morphed into the Corinthian Corners of the twenty-first century! :) HaHa.

After putting students into groups in each of the four corners of the classroom, enabling them first to come up with their own ideas on what might occupy each of the four corners, this image is showed to them. This is followed by a description of the process in which every word outside the box is included in a short narrative (and the subsequent course is then about visiting each one of those words more fully). Here is the latest version of this description:

A model for effective biblical preaching…
"Anchored by a secure theology, particularly about the Word of God, effective preaching commences with an openness of the Bible and an openness to the Spirit as time is taken to observe what the text is actually saying. It then draws on the best commentaries to ensure the most accurate exegesis of the text and it commits to clarity of design, believing it to be a key ingredient in building the momentum of the sermon as well as gaining and maintaining the attention of listeners.

With this in place virtually anything is permissible in the pursuit of rapport with a congregation. There just must be connection. A variation in all aspects of the presentation will help, as will being natural in all aspects of delivery. But the key is developing a specific application which keeps in mind a congregation’s diversity, capped-off by a capacity to start:stop in a creative and compelling manner.

With this preaching, the assumption is that there are people who are not yet Christians who are listening. And so the sermon is infused with a freshness and vibrancy, as people hear the preacher speaking their language and utilising illustrations (both image and story) from their world. As this is done, there is a both a probing for the worldviews at work in the world, as well as a lingering, wherever possible, with the logic of induction in order to respect this listener more fully.

With all this simmering away in the preparation, effective preaching never loses sight of the preacher’s own participation in the process. There is an authenticity which seeps into every aspect of life and ministry and this is then fused with both a warmth in the face and eyes, as well as a passion in the voice and manner. Furthermore, in a world overwhelmed by many words, the words of this preacher stand out as different because they include words which bear witness to the truth being proclaimed from the testimony of their own lives.

So effective preaching is about taking the stories of the listeners, the world, and the preacher and weaving them around the biblical story, which is based in the written Word and focused on the Living Word. It is about bringing to the exegesis of the listener, the world, and the preacher the very same skills of exegesis which we bring to the biblical text. It is pursued in overt and vocal dependence upon the Spirit of God who can be relied upon to superintend the entire process because it acknowledges his inspiring, illuminating, authenticating, and anointing work – as he leads people to Jesus.” 

nice chatting



kelhukiesie said…
Thank you Dr.Windsor for this update and the insights..have loved the idea of "corners" and if I might say so, working through the "corners" kind of makes it feel less "technical"... and this is just in time for the group to start next week. I am thinking that it will be good for us to begin with the explanation of the "model for effective preaching" (without showing the corners yet) and pick up the discussions from there.
Unknown said…
Great stuff Paul, really good. Are there 'words' outside the box for the final corner? And will you develop Doric and Ionic versions? ;)
Unknown said…
sorry, the last comment was from me, but it didn't have my name. Paul Barker
Peter Anderson said…
Thank you, Paul. I found this really excellent. Peter Anderson, Mairangi Bay Community Church
Paul Windsor said…
Thanks, Kelhu - hope it can provoke some good discussion for you.

Yes, Paul, the final corner is the recent addition and I'm still thinking about how to fill and focus it with words 'outside the box'. All contributions gratefully received. The other area I am not so sure of is the 'authenticates' one ... I love the truth it communicates (that on hearing the truth, a listener recognises it to be the truth as the Spirit authenticates it for them) - but not sure yet whether it fits snugly in this corner.

Femi Adeleye said…
Well done Paul on your milestone! Wish you many more with fruit following. This is my first time on your blog and you have great insights.

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