Pannenberg on Listening to Preaching

As I was doing some additional dissertation work last night, I came across a wonderful paragraph by Wolfart Pannenberg in his text Theology and the Kingdom of God which concerns how we might approach listening to sermons.

When people are equipped to listen judiciously, the sermon is no longer an authoritative word Wolfhart_Pannenberg-1of God but an attempt to reformulate the substantial truth of the Christian faith. This reformulation is carried out in the context of contemporary experience and understanding of reality in all dimensions of human existence. It should be related particularly to the life of the community which is invited to participate in the reformulation. Thus the sermon offers an example and some guidance for the members of the community in their own thinking about the Christian faith and its present truth. The people should not judge blindly, and certainly they should not uncritically parrot the ideas of their preacher. Rather they are called to reflect in an educated and responsible way, taking into account not only theoretical information but also a comprehensive understanding of their won life’s experience. Preachers should make a special effort to speak to the concreteness of life experience.(emphasis mine)

He goes on to talk about how the goal is to recognize the maturity and autonomy of the individual. This is the goal of equipping the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12-16.) In our day of superstar, celebrity preachers who offer kind words of encouragement with little substance behind them the call for preachers to equip their congregations with critical thinking skills is rare. Yet in his wisdom, Professor Pannenberg is encouraging the orators among us to do just that.

May we endeavor to accomplish such a calling.