There’s been a bit of a fiasco surrounding the publication of John Dickson’s tract “Hearing Her Voice”.

I’m not going to weigh into the general discussion, although I think Lionel Windsors response, linked to below, is a good one.

A important topic in the discussion of whether and when it is biblical for a woman to preach to a congregation of mixed gender is what we mean by ‘preaching’.

I really liked Lionel Windsor’s comments on this topic in his response to John Dickson. I like them regardless of their context in response to John Dickson, actually:

I completely understand why Dickson would assume this definition of preaching. “Commentary” and “application” is indeed what a lot of preaching looks like. In fact, in purely formal terms, Dickson’s description of preaching is pretty accurate. If you analysed the formal structure of most sermons, you would probably find that commentary and application do take up quite a large chunk of what’s going on (at least in Sydney).

But let’s take a step back for a moment. “Commentary” and “application” might be what preaching often looks like. But is this really what preaching actually is, at its core? Or at the very least, is this what preaching really should be?

Dickson’s booklet has caused me to reflect on my own personal experience of sermons by others, and sermons I’ve preached, and on what I know about the best preaching in church history. And I am not satisfied with an understanding of preaching which views it simply as “commentary plus application.” Now let me ask you, if you have experienced or participated in preaching—are you satisfied with this definition? I think there is far more going on.

Sermons at their best are, I propose, communicative acts in which a preacher, empowered by the Spirit of God, delivers God’s truth to his hearers in a way which transfixes and transforms their whole heart—mind, will, conscience, affections. Of course, because God’s truth comes to us in and through the inspired words of the Scriptures, it is right to ensure that our sermons clearly and demonstrably rely upon the very words of the Scriptures. This is why, as Dickson affirms, the “default form” of the sermon is “exposition and application” (461). But identifying the default form of the sermon is not the same as identifying the essence of the sermon. A good sermon is more than this. It is a delivery of God’s truth from speaker to hearer.


Xian Reflections is written by Mikey Lynch.

Mikey graduated from the University of Tasmania with a Bachelor of Arts in 2002. In 2000 he became one of the founding leaders of Crossroads Presbyterian Church where he was the lead pastor for 7 years from 2003.

Mikey now works as the Campus Director of the University Fellowship of Christians, University of Tasmania, Hobart. Mikey is the chairman of The Vision 100 Network (Tasmania) and a founding director of Geneva Push (national) – both church planting networks. He is also a chaplain at Jane Franklin Hall and the chairman of New Front Door: the Church IT Guild.

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