I’ve been following the Who on and off from my childhood until now. I’m not a big fan, but I find their music interesting. I love some but not others. I ran across an interesting recent memoir written by their ingenious guitar smashing Pete Townsend. You can read about his interview here. One thing struck me more than a few other things is that Pete Townsend said that he had always heard music in his head and just couldn’t keep from writing them down.
Over human existence, geniuses have always claimed that they hear this and that voice in their heads in their creative process. Trouble is, mental wards are also full of people claiming to have heard voices. Some have to take medication to keep such voices away. What separates the genius from the mental patient? This question has its relevance for preachers.
Preaching is subjective. My friend Prof. Thomas Long had said once that if you preach to 1000 people, you may get 1000 different interpretations of your sermon. You simply can’t control how they receive the message. To make matters worse, most of us claim that we heard it from the Lord. Many of us have written up sermons based on some wild voices we heard in our heads at one time or another, probably with much regret upon later reflection.
I do not suggest suppressing those moments of ingenuity. I think creativity needs to be part of preaching. I would suggest however that we need to control such voices instead of letting them run wild in our ministry and baptizing such voices with words like “unction.” Those of us who make it a regular practice to keep updated on the research of others on biblical studies and theology are probably at less risk of completely going off the deep end because “God’s voice,” as it were, needs verification. In all honesty, most of us are not bold enough to claim in public that we have heard God’s voice “for sure.” We can get close, if we pay close attention all the time as to what the learned community is saying about the biblical text we’re preaching. Combine that with our parish experience, we’ll have a harnessed ingenuity worthy of moving away from madness and a little closer to the divine. That’s about all I can suggest for now, but hopefully this will help us to study a little harder not just rely on some quick-fix church growth book or some “ten easy keys to preach better” but really go into the depth of all divine truths.