Intrusive Word: Preaching to the Unbaptized, by William H. Willimon, Eugene, Oregon, 2002. Previously published by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994.
At the back of the book we find the following remarks: "The Intrusive Word presents preaching as an act of evangelism in today's church. In his lively, pointed, and at times humorous style, Willimon shows how today's pastors must revise their preaching task as part of the church's joyful attempt to proclaim Christ. Each chapter is followed by one of Willimon's own sermons illustrating his concerns in a practical, biblical way. Readers of this book will experience rebirth and renewal in their own lives as the Word of God gracefully intrudes. Pastors and students of homiletics will find imaginative models of evangelistic preaching that demonstrate that 'preaching in the service of anything less than a living, intrusive God is not worth the effort.’
Dr William H. Willimon has been Dean of the Chapel and Professor of Christian Ministry at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina since 1984. Eugene Peterson writes, "Willimon on preaching is the freshest voice in the country right now."
"The gospel is not a set of interesting ideas about which we are supposed to make up our minds. The gospel is intrusive news that evokes a new set of practices, a complex of habits, a way of living in the world, discipleship.” (p.39)
key word is "intrusive.”
Willimon thinks that we need to understand this when we present
Jesus to those outside the faith.
Intrusive suggests a message unlike any other, something
akin to a loose cannon on the deck.
Something that invades the souls of unsuspecting people and,
while being preached, may affect those inside the church just as much
as it affects those outside.
begins with the story of Verleen, a single mother of two children
living in the "project."
Verleen is the sort of person many Christians believe need to
be reached, but NIMB (for "not in my backyard," read
significance of Verleen's story lies in the fact that she,
representing the unbaptized, not only began to engage the intrusive
Word of Christ when she heard it for the first time, but, as a result,
the "baptized" (even the preacher) were also engaged, in
ways none expected. The
rest of the book is built with that story in mind.
If you are a preacher, you will want to read the story to your
people. I did it once and
they loved it.
is not overly impressed with those who have gone out of their way to
understand evangelism and church growth, marketing and
does not think the gospel needs to be defended.
this college professor is not greatly concerned that the preaching of
Jesus be acceptable to the "thinker" because, ultimately,
one does not think his or her way to faith.
And while the author is masterful at putting the evangel into
terms the hearer can perceive, he suggests that we should not be
surprised when some folks simply do not understand it.
Perhaps they never will. That
is sad, but OK.
most allegedly evangelistic preaching I know about,” Willimon
writes, "is an effort to drag people even deeper into their
subjectivity rather than an attempt to rescue them, from it.
This spells big trouble for most of my preaching.
Too much of my preaching begins at what I judge to be 'where
people are.' Then, in
twenty minutes, I attempt to move them to the gospel" (p.38).
This is quite an admission for one of the best preachers in
America to make.
the one hand, we pursue faith in a day when the large majority of
professing Christians appear to have ceased caring about evangelism.
Not that they are not thrilled at the sight of a Billy Graham
crusade. And not that they
do not express approval for those who still engage people in
persuasive conversations. But
it seems many have been subtly affected by a cultural pluralism that
says, "I'm glad I have Jesus, and you have Shirley MacLaine.
Now we're both happy. What
do you think about the Celtics' chances this year?"
the other hand, we have a lot of sparkling communicators who have
given us "worship services" designed for the unbeliever who
are tired of (and withdrawn from) the traditional church.
This "worship," marked with marvelously produced
contemporary music, drama, and sound/light displays, could thrill any
put the word worship in quotes because, while I thoroughly
enjoy it and admire the people who do it, I don't think it is genuine
worship. Wonderful stuff.
Praise, maybe. Pre-evangelism,
in certain cases. But not
those culturally induced to loosen up on persuasion and to those who
have gone the extra mile to wrap the gospel in the most scintillating
packages, Willimon has written a classic book.
subtitle of The Intrusive Word (Preaching to the Unbaptized)
warns that Willimon has his eye on the subject of evangelism.
But one had better be careful; the author has readied an
ambush. Before we learn
how to preach to the rest of the world, Willimon suggests that we need
to take a look at ourselves. Perhaps,
in the largest sense of the word, we, the so-called baptized, need to
"remember our baptism" before we can be of any use to those
who still need it.
our baptism? Willimon: "I
contend that, through evangelism, through repeated confrontation with
the intrusive grace of God, the church can be born again. By letting
God use us in God’s never-ending pursuit of the unbaptized, the
baptized can rediscover what it means to be the church, that unlikely
gathering of those who are called to sign, signal, and witness to the
graciousness of God in a world dying for lack of salvation” (p.5).
church? In need of being
born again? It is quote
exemplary of the way Willimon forces the reader to think about things
about which some may have grown complacent.
Willimon, a Methodist, contends that evangelism's goal is to bring
people to baptism. But in
preaching to the unbaptized, a remarkable thing is likely to happen.
The preacher and the baptized may experience transformation
too. Implication: if one
is not calling others, one just may not be making significant moves
preachers so want to be heard” Willimon writes, "that we
are willing to make the gospel more accessible than it really is, to
remove the scandal, the offense of the cross, to deceive people into
thinking that it is possible to hear without conversion” (p.19).
the Word, he proposes, will come when and where it wants, to people of
God's own choosing. And
those of us in the church may not always feel comfortable with the
"Verleens" of society who enter and are drawn to the fresh
Word of Christ. Their
initial witness may sound embarrassing to church-shaped ears.
But we may all be in for a surprise.
In their baptism into faith, we may find ourselves in need of
is in the conversion business.” Willimon notes (p.95).
Every time one person communicates with another, there is an
element of persuasion involved. Why
should the church be embarrassed by the notion that it has been called
by Christ to offer a new version of reality whose starting point is
the Cross and the One who died there?
think you are going to like this one – but at the same time, maybe,
you may not like it. Having
read through it a number of times, I found myself appraising some of
my latest sermons. I
detected in them some evidence of a lack of boldness, a slight hint of
intimidation, even a moment or two of apology.
I think I saw a tendency to guard the gospel I was preaching
from being too intrusive, too confronting.
And then I read Willimon again and I repented before God.
by Dr John Lim. This book
is available at BGST Library.)
week's chapel we featured our very own Dean, Dr Quek Swee Hwa.
He spoke on "The Tyranny of Time."
Time flies! We
all have a problem with time. Time
is limited to our present situation but not in eternity.
Dr Quek shared from Eccles. 1 and 3 on three matters concerning
Chapel next week on September 17 will
be taken by Dr Philip Satterthwaite.
Chapel next week on September 17 will be taken by Dr Philip Satterthwaite.
A BLESSED BIRTHDAY TO ...
Albert Cheng Kok Seong 8/9
Louis Tay 8/9
Tan Hun Hoe 8/9
Ang Siew Lin 9/9
Bernard Chia 9/9
Lim Lee Choo 10/9
Ho Beng Guan 11/9
Joseph Lim 12/9
Jennifer Loh 12/9
Prof. David Chew 12/9
Aw Yeong Yuen Yue 12/9
Catherine Tcheau 13/9
Toh Beng Guan 14/9
Mrs Susie Yong 14/9