(#5) The Process of Preparing to Preach – Patricia Outlaw

Won’t you say ‘Amen’ again? We greet you this afternoon with Jesus’s joy. This joy I have, the world didn’t give it to me and the world can’t take it away. I want to thank Brother Grant Taylor for introducing me and for extending this invitation for me to come back to my Alma Mater, Amen? I am a an alumnus of Beeson, having earned my Doctorate in Ministry here at Beeson after having first earned a PhD in Maryland at the age of 29. I’ve been preaching for 33 years now and so I just want to share with you a little bit in terms of my particular perspective as it relates to our subject matter which is from text to sermon. And the first thing I want to bring to your attention is the fact that preaching is a process, there’s no one way to do it or no perfect way But it’s a process, and I would say do you trust the process? Now if someone had told me that I would be standing here teaching you about preaching from text to sermon, if they said that 40 years ago I probably would have laughed at them, but God works in mysterious ways, and so part of the process for me involves what I call ‘Sweet hour of prayer.’ Some of you are familiar with the hymn ‘Sweet Hour of Prayer.’ Well, preparatory prayer is absolutely essential, when the preacher stands in front of an audience and announces ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ and I’m not really talking about when you’re in the pulpit. I’m talking about before you climb the pulpit and take your stand, if you will, you are to enter into a season of prayer Ask the Lord to speak to your heart, to help you prepare to preach from text to sermon. The preacher-woman or a preacher-man represents the voice of God to the people, it is a necessary part of the process to pray before preaching, not only when you’re in the pulpit but before you begin to tackle the assignment that God has given you. At a minimum we ought to engage in a sweet hour of prayer before we move from text to sermon. It’s me O Lord, standing in the need of prayer. Not my mother, not my father but it’s me O Lord Hide me behind the cross, tell me what to say, forgive me of my sins, I know I’m not worthy to stand before the people of God, but you can fix it Lord, you can fix me right now. The hymnologist William Walford penned these words in the 19th century he said “Sweet hour of prayer sweet hour of prayer that calls me from a world of care and bids me at my Father’s throne, make all my wants and wishes known, in seasons of distress and grief, my soul has oft found relief and oft escaped the tempter’s snare by thy return sweet hour of prayer.” And typically since I am a Pastor I would refer the congregants to the hymn book and the hymn is found on page 307, Sweet Hour of Prayer I don’t know what page it is in your hymnal because each person’s hymnal is different depending on what congregation you are speaking to, but you should have the page number ready and as we say, “Line the hymn.” There are to be a dedicated preparation time as you move from text to sermon Not only do preachers need to set aside some prayer time before moving from text to sermon, but the preacher also needs to set aside quantitative time to prepare the sermon. And I emphasize ‘quantitative time,’ this should not be a last-minute endeavor My first preaching professor Reverend Mark Riddix, a Baptist pastor who taught at the Ecumenical Institute of Theology and St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, Maryland told us novice students that we needed to spend at least fourteen hours per week preparing one sermon. Fourteen hours per week preparing one sermon. I looked at him and said to myself “Really?” Who has that kind of time? Because at that particular time

I was a full-time psychologist working in public practice and in private practice I worked at a community mental health facility during the daytime I was seeing private clients, at night in my private practice and I was proud of the fact that I was a psychologist, a licensed psychologist, one of the few African American women licensed psychologists and private practice in Baltimore, Maryland. I was I was a bad somebody. [laughter] And in the midst of all that God called me to preach. So I was trying to go to seminary part-time because there was an ecumenical Institute I could go part-time and it was a diverse group of people, pastors from the Baptist Church, the Methodist Church, you name it, they were there. So when he said 14 hours I looked at him like ‘Really?’ And I found myself in a class with seasoned pastors who also were trying to get their master’s degree from St. Mary’s seminary and he kept emphasizing ‘You need to spend 14 hours a week.’ The course was called ‘Preaching in the Black Church.’ Pastor Mark Riddix was serious about his students spending 14 hours per week working on one sermon. Any free time you may have had you spent in St. Mary’s library exegeting the text. So I didn’t have much of a social life. And we had peer study groups, we worked together depending on what course I was in, sometimes I took one course sometimes I took two, and typically I was the only female with the brothers and sometimes we studied in the library sometimes we studied at my house or someone else’s house, but we put the time in because the Rev Mark Riddix required that we put the time in, and if you didn’t put the time in, he could tell and some of the brethren had to go over to his house. I didn’t have to go to his house, and I understand from some of the brethren they were there at the wee hours of the morning working on sermons I share that with you to say that this is not something that you can do justice to if you take it lightly. You’ve got to do your homework. You can’t wait till Saturday night to figure out what you’re gonna preach on Sunday morning Okay let’s look at the text that I selected. The text I selected, which came from John 3:1-17, this is a reference to a sermon that I preached in July of this year, and I use the English Standard Version of the Bible because my colleague is one of the editors of the English Standard Version of the Bible, Amen Y’all know who I’m talking about, Amen. So if you have your bibles, John 3:1-17 and we shall read responsively and in my my church we have the English Standard Version of the Bible and we just recently acquired them, amen, so every church that I’ve served I make sure they have the English Standard Version of the Bible in the pews so that we can read together, amen? Okay so now do you know what I mean when I say read responsively? I’m not making assumptions, okay, that means I read the first verse, you read the second and then we’ll read the last verse together, okay? “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi we know that you are a teacher come from God for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born? Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit

Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again,’ the wind blows where it wishes and you hear its sound but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes, so it is with everyone who was born of the Spirit Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up that whoever believes in him may have eternal life For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life All together: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Let the church say ‘Amen.’ And so we’ve identified our text. Now what was the occasion of the sermon, and how is it that the I selected the text? Well this sermon was preached at Bethel AME Church Rising which is in Birmingham, Alabama. Zip Code 35208 It was preached on the Sunday after the Fourth of July which was in fact July the 9th. Now I want you to hear what I just said. It was preached in Birmingham, Alabama in Zip code 35208 on the Sunday after the fourth of July which was July the ninth which was the second Sunday in July of this year Now I’m purposefully setting you up. The context of the audience. You might not get this in your preaching class but i’mma give it to you today. The context of the audience is important. To whom are you preaching? Who’s in your audience? Where are you preaching? The statistics and demographics with zip code 35208 lets us know that this church is in North Birmingham, Alabama that’s where I preached the sermon. Every church that I’ve been assigned to, I’ve served – this is my fourth church, three and Alabama, one in Maryland, and so when I go to these churches I try to find out a little bit about the church. If I’m going to be a guest preacher somewhere I try to find out about the church that I’m going to be the guest preacher at. I would encourage you to go early, go to the Sunday School You know, most times when I show up they don’t know I’m the preacher And so go and slip into Sunday School and see what’s going on, because I get a feel for the church, for the people. The people living in zip code 35208 are primarily black or African-american. The median household income of this Zip code is $32,000 Bethel is a very small church, most attendees are single mothers, widows, and grandparents who have taken care of their grandchildren because their parents are on drugs or incarcerated Several of the senior citizens in the audience are foot soldiers who live with the traumatic memories of bombings which took place in their neighborhoods during the Civil Rights era. I’m from Baltimore, I’m not from Alabama and I say that because I’ve been here 17 years and I’ve talked to foot soldiers, and many of them Birmingham is still suffering from what I call post-traumatic stress disorder, or suffering from memories of bombings which took place in their neighborhoods during the Civil Rights era. Some of you weren’t even born. But this is significant to the community in which I minister. the truth is everyone who lived in Birmingham and survived during the bombings and water hosing still live with a level of post-traumatic stress related to racial discrimination. The readability, your reading level, the readability of this congregation is from about the eighth grade to graduate school level. The more educated members of this church live outside of the zip code 35208. It’s important to understand the social context of the people to whom you are preaching. So, this

particular sermon that I’m referencing was preached in Birmingham, Alabama in zip code 35208, where the income, compared to the incomes out here in Vestavia, for a family of four is under $35,000 a year. What was the liturgical season? I’m glad you asked. [laughter] This was the season of Pentecost, this was the fifth Sunday of Pentecost. For those of us who do high church it’s important to understand what the liturgical season we’re in. We make we make a big deal in our tradition about Pentecost, celebrating the Feast of Weeks and the fact that Holy Ghost fell on all these folk who were gathered, but it’s significant So this sermon was preached on the heels of the fourth of July, but I opted not to preach from the suggested text mentioned in the Revised Common Lectionary. Anybody familiar with a Revised Common Lectionary? Yeah you can go online and see what the readings are. And the reason I opted not to preach, because I was sensitive to the sociological context in which I was preaching, and what was happening in our community nationally, state, and locally, and I’m a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and with the loss of our friends and clergy from Emanuel AME Church Carolina so I was aware of that of aware of what is happening here [broken audio] So here it is on the heels of… [broken audio] preach on John 3… [broken audio] we’re small but we got a website www.bethelrising.org. Our Bishop has encouraged all churches to have websites And even though we’re a small church, we’re on the cutting edge. I can’t say that for some of our larger churches, cuz I look to find them and I can’t find them So we talked about liturgical season… So, I opted to deal with John I really can’t remember exactly what my thinking was at the time, because this is September now, that was back in July, but I know I had to do something with the Declaration of Independence. And then I had to think about, ‘Well what music will be appropriate to introduce the sermon?’ This is all from text to sermon. What will be your sermonic selection? The selection of the sermonic hymn requires communication between the pastor and the Minister to Music and I would refer all of you to the Doctor of Ministry project that Dr Lark Ball, who is an alum of Beeson Divinity School. I happen to have been her advisor, but she did her project, it was entitled ‘Preserving the integrity of music and worship: Defining and refining the process of selecting music that enhances the corporate worship experience,” Lark Ball 2010. That book is available in the Samford University Library, so you can get go over there and take a look at it, but having worked with Lark and traveled to Philly to some of the workshops she did in relationship to her project I become real sensitive to them, to the importance of music in worship and also as it relates to your sermon. And so for me Amazing Grace works, if you can’t think of anything else you can always count on Amazing Grace. So for the purposes of the sermon, the sermonic selection, however was “Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross.” And that’s in our AME hymnal, page 321 Now my sermon title. In our tradition the titles are significant and important. So I’m reading this text and I’m reading it over and over and over and over again, and I say okay Lord what we going what

title, what we going to call this, how am I going to reach my audience? And keep in mind that I’m preaching to a targeted audience and I’m aware of what’s going on sociologically, psychologically, theologically, and how can I get the attention of the people that I’m preaching to. And so I entitled my sermon America must be born again America must be born again, because the theme of John’s discourse is “you must be born again,” and since we’re all American citizens for the most part, some of us are international students, but the reality is that America must be born again, that’s the word that the Spirit was giving me and that’s what I used as my title. Okay, let’s talk about introduction from the text to the sermon Introductions are important. You can either get the attention or lose the attention, and then you have to be mindful of who’s in the audience and I’ve noticed over the years that the attention spans have declined. Why is that? Because scientific evidence shows that the technology is making us have short-term memory problems, so we’re not as attentive as we were 40 years ago or 30 years ago or even 20 years ago because text messaging, cell phones, whatever, distract us. We have higher rates of distractibility even in your classrooms, you have higher rates of distractibility compared to when we were in your classrooms. I know, I taught you for 15 years, and so my introduction. A few days ago many Americans celebrate the 4th of July, Independence Day, with family and friends by eating barbeque and watching fireworks late into the night. The 4th of July, 1776 signaled the date that the 13 colonies united and legally separated from England becoming the United States of America. If my mathematical skills serve me right, that was 241 years ago that this country became a legal independent entity. What am I trying to do? I’m trying to engage my audience, I’m also trying to educate my audience, give them some historical setting because I’m going to be moving from the contemporary to the text, from there I might end up back where I started, ok? And so if my mathematical skills serve me right, that was 241 years ago that this country became a legal, independent entity. And those of us under the sound of my voice (remember my audience) who are conscious Americans and know your history will recall that the first 19 or so Africans that reached the English colonies arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. Y’all see where I’m going? Some of you might catch it… Brought by Dutch traders who had seized them from a captured Spanish slave ship. The Spanish usually baptised slaves in Africa before embarking them, thus the historical record reveals that 157 years prior to the Declaration of Independence, the enslavement of African people was legal and normative and deemed good for the economy in the 13 colonies of the United States of America. In other words my ancestors were slaves, and I’m talking to the descendants of slaves in my church. When the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 and agreed upon by the white supremacists of the 13 colonies and England, there was no consideration given to the freeing of African people who were held against their will in bondage. The country became united on the backs of slavery which had already been in play for 157 years in America. It was not until January 1st, 1863, that slaves in the Confederate States were freed as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation going into effect. The rest of our ancestors who were slaves were freed as a result of the 13th amendment December 1865, 89 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, slavery was abolished in the United States of America. My contention is that July 4th was really not our holiday. However, lest we become complacent However, lest we become complacent in our comfortableness, Michelle Alexander, an exclaimed civil rights lawyer and legal scholar in her new book ‘The New Jim Crow,’ highlights the racial dimensions of the war on drugs. It argues that federal drug policy unfairly targets communities of color, keeping millions of young black men in a cycle of poverty and behind bars. The greatest instigator of mass

incarceration is the war on drugs. Rather than combat drug activity, the war on drugs has served as a deliberate strategy to control people of color and remove them from the political process, which is racist in both application and design. Alexander’s suggests that the war on drugs and mass incarceration constitutes a rebirth of caste in America, beginning with slavery and continuing with Jim Crow segregation, mass incarceration places entire groups of people into discriminatory positions in society, permanently. I submit to you today that America must be born again Turn to your neighbor say, “Neighbor, Oh neighbor, America must be born again.” When your children begin to ask you questions about who is their father, or where is their daddy? I submit to you that you just ought to tell them the truth about how it is that they got here in the first place. Remember, now I’m talking to an audience of single mothers and grandparents are taking care of their children, mm-hmm, don’t be afraid to talk to your children and give them straight answers when they ask you some of the hard questions in life. I remember as a preschool child asking my mother the proverbial question, “Where do babies come from?” In her progressive, forward-thinking manner she sat me down and told me I was born in Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland. She seemed to take pride in letting me know that I was born in a world-famous research teaching medical facility such as John Hopkins Hospital She assured me that it was not a stork that flew me across town from some strange destination to our home, she explained to me at a very early age the birthing process, because she understood that she had a very precocious child. As early as the age of seven years old, I recall a Sunday School lesson being about a man named Nicodemus. The Sunday School teacher said that that Jesus told Nicodemus he must be born again I remember blurting out in the sunday school class, “Can’t no man be born again! He is too big to return to his mother the way he came here!” Of course you can imagine all eyes were on me at the moment, and it did not help the situation that we had a visiting evangelist, Amanda Williams, in our Sunday School class that day. She later whispered to me that she thought I would be a preacher someday. I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about at that time. Nevertheless, that day at the age of seven I didn’t care what the Sunday school teacher said, I knew that no one could be born again because my mother told me how babies were born, and yet, here I am decades later, heralding the headline news: ‘America must be born again.’ And now we shift into our analysis of the text. Y’all with me? in our text for this discourse, John 3:1-17, we discovered that Nicodemus was initially attracted to Jesus because of the miracles he did and I don’t have a whole lot of time do I? But, I hope y’all write your questions down.” Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus,” so that’s what the text says let’s skip down Nicodemus wanted to know more about Jesus and the doctrines that he taught Nicodemus himself was a teacher of the Jews and he had great respect for the teacher from Galilee. Nicodemus was a Pharisee which meant he lived by the strictest possible religious rules. My mom used to say if you use big words, break it down so we so we can understand them. Amen. Don’t assume that everybody went to seminary because they don’t, they haven’t, they didn’t The only ones who went to seminary are in this room. Not all the Pharisees were hypocrites as one may infer from Jesus comments in Matthew 23. And evidence indicates that Nicodemus was deeply sincere in his quest for truth. He came to Jesus by night, not because he was afraid of being seen, but most likely because he wanted to have a quiet, uninterrupted conversation with a new teacher from God. The fact that Nicodemus used the plural pronoun we and Jesus responded with the plural ye may indicate that Nicodemus was representing the religious leaders. He was a man of high moral character, deep religious hunger, and yet profound spiritual blindness. To instruct Nicodemus in the basics of salvation Jesus used three illustrations in our text for today. He used rebirth, the wind, and the serpent, and for the sake of time I’m not going to you know expound on it but I do talk in this sermon about the significance of the rebirth, the wind, and the serpent. Now when

Jesus said unless one is born of the water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God, he was signaling and pointing us to the essential element of our faith who is Jesus, the Christ The fact that we get baptized or participate in the sacrament of baptism is a sign of our willingness to die to our sins. When we baptize a person we bury the old, sinful person through the immersion or sprinkling of the water. We sprinkle and immerse in my tradition A person can be baptized by water, which signifies a change but it does not necessarily connote the thing it signifies Baptism in and of itself cannot save us, our salvation comes through grace alone and faith in Jesus Christ, Ephesians 2:8-9 On the other hand, A believer can be baptized by water and the spirit. To be baptized by the spirit means that new life is breathed into the believer, then I quote John Wesley, the father of Methodism who talks about the new birth Jesus expounds on the new birth in this pericope, the wind, and the serpent on the pole. It talks about how we can’t see the wind but we know the wind is powerful and certainly we — this wasn’t in my sermon but certainly if I were preaching it today I would make reference to Hurricane Irma and the force of the wind — we know the wind exists, mm-hmm, okay let me skip on down. Third illustration he uses in his trilogy of persuading the erudite Nicodemus that he must be born again is another Old Testament reference to the serpent being lifted up. Okay, much as the serpent was lifted up on the pole so the Son of God will be lifted up on a cross, why? To save us from sin and death In the camp of Israel, the solution to the serpent problem was not in killing the serpents, making medicine, pretending they were not there, passing anti-serpent laws, or climbing the pole. The answer was in looking to the one who is able to heal us. Here we come to contemporary application. When you come to your application, again, I take you back to who’s your audience? Who you preaching to? Consider the geographical context, your sociological context, and the demographics of the listeners. Who is in the audience? I used to love it when my mother was in the audience, because she’d be waving and stuff. She would critique me Are you preaching in the black church, the white church? (Isn’t that something, I have to say that?) A multicultural audience, a women’s group, men’s group, youth group, families, singles I preached one of alums’, Pastor Gardeners anniversary. 14th pastoral anniversary. First time he had a woman preach at his church in 14 years and I did the pastoral anniversary sermon at the 11 o’clock hour. Was I mindful of my audience and where I was? Of course! How does the text address 21st century listeners in your audience? What do you expect the listeners to do with what they have heard? When I was a child I thought as a child, now that I’m an adult I have put away childish thoughts. I just stopped by to tell you that America must be born again. And how can this be? By the Spirit of the Living God. Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on these United States of America Breathe on America, breath of God if you breathe on America and breathe on us we shall live and not die Lord let your fresh wind surround this nation, allow the United States of America to experience your Holy Pentecost and then, Father, when we get tired of seeing our brothers, our sisters, our sons, our daughters being arrested for jaywalking while being black, and being assassinated by an unjust judicial system wherein most inmates are black males who provide free labor for private sector companies who then profit from the new slavery system called the American prison system. Help us to understand that America must be born again when we as the descendants of slaves in America, and I’m talking to the descendants of slaves in America, and I’m a descendant of slaves in America, because I’m third generation out from slavery. I’m third generation out from slavery. I might look young but I’m

third generation. I know I got it going on, but I’m third generation out from slavery. As the descendants of slaves in America get weary in well-doing remind us through your Holy Spirit to look up to the hills toward Golgotha’s cross from whence comes our victory in Christ Jesus Jesus the Christ was crucified on an ignominious cross for a crime that he did not commit. I can relate to that. And I like – what’s his name? Eugene Peterson’s translation, John chapter 1. I think it’s verse 14 and he says and “The Word was made flesh and moved into our neighborhood.” Hallelujah! He was a home brother And so when I say that to my audience they can relate to it too Jesus becomes real close and up personal because he’s in my neighborhood. He’s in zip code 35208. Jesus hung in humiliation on that cross for three days The imperialists took him down from the cross and laid him in a borrowed tomb. They thought they had the victory but on the third day Jesus the Christ got up from the grave with all power in his hands, and because Jesus got up with all power in his hands, I declare and decree that we can get up America must be born again. Jesus is coming back again, America must be born again. We must learn to love all men and women as brothers and sisters, those of us who declared that we are born again believers in Christ Jesus must demonstrate to America and the world that we love our neighbors as ourselves by our actions That we really love our neighbors. And I’m gonna give you a personal anecdote because I’ve spent a lot of years here at Beeson Divinity School, and we used to have pastors’ school and I taught several workshops in several different years. I don’t even remember what year it was, but I remember teaching something, and pastors came from different parts of the country in Alabama and one brother came into my workshop he said “I came here by accident.” I said, “Okay, well you’re welcome to stay.” He stayed, and he said “I learned something today.” And so as we were walking to the chapel I said to him, “Well maybe I’ll come visit your church someday.” He said “No I don’t think that’d be a good idea.” “I didn’t say I was coming to preach, I just said I was coming to visit,” and he said “No I don’t think that’d be a good idea cuz my people are ain’t ready for that.” I said “Didn’t you say you were the pastor?” I charge you as pastors that the change has to begin with you. America must be born again Jesus is coming back again, we must learn to love all men and women as brothers and sisters. Those of us who declare that we are born-again believers in Christ Jesus must demonstrate to America and the world that we love our neighbors as ourselves by our actions. You don’t need a special invitation to come to my church or any church that I serve. You don’t even have to be a Christian to come to my church. The brothers and sisters from the Nation of Islam know they are welcome at our church. I look for “how are they gonna hear the word, unless there’s a preacher?” I look forward to the day when the 11 o’clock hour on Sunday morning will cease to be the most segregated hour in the nation. America must be born again Closing. The sermon should point to Jesus Christ, the Messiah This is my opinion, now I had Expositional Narrative Preaching with Dr. Calvin Miller and Dr Robert Smith, so this is where we take it home, mm-hmm So regardless of whether the text is from the Old Testament or New Testament, Jesus Christ came down from heaven through 42 generations. He thought it not robbery to take on human flesh and become like one of us. He came to save the people of Israel from their sins, but they did not receive him, salvation was offered to the Gentiles. Jesus was crucified, buried in a borrowed tomb, Jesus did not stay in the ground. This is what I’m telling my congregants. On the third day he got up from the grave with all power in his hands and because Jesus got up we can get up too. But that’s not the end of

the story, and see sometimes we want to leave it right there, but that’s not the end of the story. Jesus is coming back again and you got to tell the people that Jesus is coming back again and when Jesus comes back again the trumpet will sound and I can hear Louis Armstrong tuning up. The dead in Christ will rise again and those who are yet alive will be caught up to meet him in the air, and because I’m sensitive to the audience and it is five days after the fourth of July, I close with this hymn, which is found in our hymnal on page 71. In our communities it’s known as the Negro national anthem. Lift every voice and sing till earth in heaven ring, ring with the harmonies of Liberty. Let our rejoicing rise high as the listening skies, let it resound loud at the rolling sea, sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us, sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us facing the Rising Sun of our new day begun, let us march on till victory is won. I commend you to Google “the Negro national anthem” and and read the verses and listen to it Y’all didn’t know we had one, did you? Let the church say amen. Say amen again [Dr. Grant] Dr. Outlaw, I’ll ask you… So, this was the refrain of your presentation, just to know your audience’s sociological contexts and I would say last semester, if you were attending this sessions last semester, what we call ‘application’ was a big discussion. So just give us a bit more of your thoughts on how you are thinking about contemporary application when you’re in the process of text to sermon and you read for us from your sermon how were applying it, but give us a bit more on what you’re thinking what you’re praying… [Dr. Outlaw] So at the end of the sermon, I typically will open the doors of the church which is to invite people to give their lives to Christ or to become members of the church. I also on occasion, and from there by the Spirit I will I would say, and for those of you, for those of us who have family members who are incarcerated, you can come to the altar for prayer on behalf of your incarcerated loved one. And so on the particular Sunday everybody came to the altar, because they had a loved one who was incarcerated. Application. All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and all of us have to deal with our own racism. So America must be born again, and it has to start with us Other questions? Did that answer your question? [audience member] I wish I was there for that sermon, my Lord, that really spoke to me So that same content, how could you use that same content understanding that your context is different but still using that same because that that’s gonna resonate no matter who the audience is. Well how would you take that same content, say for instance you’re talking to a predominantly white audience, but you still want that same content to be there what does that look like? [Dr. Outlaw] So, the gospel is universal. And so if I were preaching this, say in the chapel, which I have preached in the chapel, that’s a different context. I’m preaching to a much more theologically scholarly group of folk, and so some of my examples might be different. I’d be more familiar with the handbook that’s in the chapel, I would deal more with the demographics of that particular audience. For the most part it’s going to be predominantly white males, single, who are in seminary. Look around, we’re families. One of the things I’ve learned

having been here as a student and also as a professor, is that there are more intact families in this community That’s not the norm. And also we are in the South, this is Alabama. You need to know where you are. I don’t know that all of you from Alabama, but you need to understand your sociological context. You need to understand that it wasn’t that long ago that we couldn’t go to school here. I couldn’t go to school here. And so when I go to the Student Union across the way, to Harry’s, I am reminded every day that I would go over there how unwelcomed I was at Howard College. So that’s how I would segue into it to, get the kind of reactions that I’m getting from you right now. Understand your context. I understand what it is to be the first African-american female to teach at this institution. You don’t have a clue what that’s like for me. I got you, didn’t I? That’s how you do that, that’s how you do that, you have to — I’ve been doing this for 33 years, preaching — but you have to be comfortable in your own skin, you know, you have to be comfortable with who God has called you to be God didn’t call me to preach like Tom Fuller or Ken Matthews. I said that the first day of first week of classes when I got here was starting to teach, that if you expect me to be like them don’t hold your breath waiting, because it’s not gonna happen. So I try to be authentic to who God made me to be I also try to do my homework, to identify who’s in my audience. I know that on Tuesdays typically there are students there, but there are also visitors from conservative traditional denominations who come to our chapel, amen. But I’m still gonna be authentically me in the pulpit. [audience member] I like that, “Being authentically me.” [inaudible] used to say “Folks, don’t try to be what you ain’t, it’s bad enough being what you is.” [laughter] [Dr. Outlaw] Exactly, and God calls all of us in our uniqueness and each of us has gifts, so don’t try to preach like me because I’m not gonna try to preach like you. I can only preach the way I know how to do it. Yeah, I took the courses, but that didn’t teach me how to preach. But I encourage you to go and hear preachers from different denominations. Go in here preaching you’ll be able to discern quote-unquote “good from bad,” what’s effective what’s ineffective, but the bottom line: “Is it true to the Word of God?” [audience member] From talking to Dr. Massey in the past, you would’ve had 28 hours because he believed that 14 should be put in preparing and 14 into praying, it should be just as much praying as there is preparing. [Dr. Outlaw] James Massey? Oh yessir [audience member] Yeah. He got on me about that. But I can’t find 14 hours, would you say that not everybody’s the same? or, is there a rule of thumb, 14 hours to put into the sermon? I tried, but found that if I overthink it, if I prepare it well, and I keep meditating… I overthink it sometimes [Dr. Outlaw] The 14 hours is just a guide Brad Braxton who was a pastor in Baltimore before he went back to the Academy, then he preached it a big church up in New York, I can’t think of the name, but he spent more time than that. He had it in his contract with his Douglas Memorial Community Church that the first four hours of the business day were on his schedule for sermon preparation and Bible study preparation, and the year 2000 I remember because he I would run into him in the library at St. Mary’s, and he said, “You need come to my church for the Bible study?” I said okay Brad I’ll be there one day and one day I did get there,

and then I understood why his Bible studies were overflowing, not only did they serve spaghetti dinner, but he prepared for his Bible study and his sermons and he was preaching through Revelation that year He prepared. And you could tell the difference between his Bible study and somebody else’s Bible study and I’m saying that you have to create the space and make it a priority, and most of us in America are caught up in capitalism and we have no appreciation for for silence, for prayer, for Bible study. And I’m not talking about studying for your classes, I’m talking about spiritual formation, spending time with the Lord to hear and listen to hear what the Spirit is saying to you, to go on retreat Y’all don’t know this but some of you do, but I was in a convent in my early formative years right out of high school. And every day at 5:30 in the morning we were up when we had to be in Chapel for prayer, meditation, for mass, and so it was it became a way of being What I see happening is to many of us, particularly here in Alabama, where the economy is kind of down, pastors are having to be bi-vocational. So when you’re having to be bi-vocational, occasionally you’re challenged between working your job to try to support your family and then trying to do ministry at the church At some point you gonna have to make a choice because it will wear you out Yes, sister. [audience member] I was just thinking about his question, and when I was a student here, and Dr. Smith, in his preaching class, would always say “You read the text 50 times when you’re preaching.” If you watch Dr. Smith preach, he never has anything written out, he knows that Bible from the first word in Genesis all the way to the last word in Revelation He might open a Bible from time to time, but it’s not because he doesn’t know what’s in it He’s just opening it so he won’t appear like he If you read that text and you think “I’ve gotta write down every word, every comma,” I’m afraid to do that But, if you do that, when you get up to preach, you know the word you’re preaching, you don’t have to look at it You know the scripture, and God speaks through that. It works [Dr. Outlaw] Let me just add on to that. Dr Robert Smith has a gift, not everybody has the same gifts, and in psychology we call that eidetic imagery, the ability to remember. Some of us don’t have that ability to remember, so you need to have some notes. So, don’t compare yourself to Robert Smith, find out what your gifts are, what your strengths are, and if you and if you have a weakness in the area of memory, amen, then come up with a strategy, come up with a strategy that will help you remember. That’s what I say yes reach for the sky but understand that all of us have different gifts, but I do encourage you to read the text over and over and over again. [audience member] So, I’ve been a part of congregations where the pastor/preacher will directly address the congregation and sometimes not, it depends in the context in the denomination. When we came in here you greeted us and you called us to respond to you, “Amen,” we read the text responsively, and even the way that you repeated your title in your sermon that “America must be born again,” you’re kind of welcoming your response by your hearers And I guess I wondered if you could say a few words to the role of direct address for the preacher in helping the audience engage in the text. [Dr. Outlaw] Okay so, again, understand who’s in your audience Call-and-response is part of the african-american tradition. Now I have preached in contexts where where I was the only black person in the room, or in the church and so I engage the audience, I tell them… you know, I don’t

force it, but if they respond, if they don’t respond, then I know how to adjust, okay? So, does that answer your question? [audience member] I was thinking specifically in how that helps people engage with the text? [Dr. Outlaw] Yeah it does it does help them to put yourself in the first person, or put yourself in the texts, become one with the texts, become a part of the text. And see some of this goes all the way back to some of my Catholic training when I was in the convent we had to meditate, you meditate on the Word of God and see yourself as one of the characters, and then I took creative Bible study at St. Mary’s seminary, and see yourself as one of the characters, and how does that feel to be one of the characters, whether you’re Jesus or John in the text. So you can be creative with how you expound the Word of God, and I encourage you to be creative. Yes [audience member] What about people who preach without a manuscript They may even have it typed out in an outline form or word for word, but is unable to preach from that manuscript [Dr. Outlaw] What do you mean that unable to preach? You don’t have to preach from a manuscript. No, you don’t have to you don’t have to preach from a manuscript There’s some people who have the gift of oratory who are dramatic. Bishop Harrison Bryant used to say – and some of you might have heard Bishop John Bryant who was my mentor who came here some years ago to preach – but Bishop Harrison Bryant, his father, said to us, a group in St. John AME Church in Baltimore when ordination was taking place at the end of the conference… He had this deep voice and he was speaking to the ordinance, he said “When you get up in the pulpit if you burn up that people will come to see you burn up.” And then I later discovered that quotation is not unique to him but that’s who I remember. It’s more than just exegeting a text when you’re preaching. Head, heart, and hands. You want to reach their heads, their hearts, and then you want to say what am I going to do with this word? So you have to engage It requires some drama. I encourage people who feel shy, whatever, take some courses in oratorical speaking — or that’s a that’s a double entendre yeah — but take some acting classes if you have to, to get freed up in your own essence, if you will, get comfortable in yourself This is not how I operate every day. I used to walk around in my dining room in Baltimore preaching to myself. Why? Because I would go with my pastor to hear him preach and we had really close relationships and he told me how he used to preach in the shower, John Bryant, Jamal Bryant’s, father, he used to preach in the shower so I started preaching in my dining room to myself, I’d make myself happy So what I’m saying to you is, this is a life calling and the first person that hears the sermon is you, and the sermon is for you, if the truth be told, and so preach till you make yourself happy. [Moderator] I’ll let that be — that’s a good final word. And you saw that in your sermon, where you in the introduction, with that point and Chris’s point, in your introduction you went back to your childhood, you said that a man can’t be born again. So you were in the sermon already So from time to time I think it helps the folks apply the text when we are modeling applying the text You did that in the sermon for us [Dr. Outlaw] And also I’m saying to my people, “Don’t think your children don’t know what’s going on. They do.” So when they ask the questions answer the questions at the level that they can understand. Don’t make up stuff, especially today with the technology, they know more than we know They can google it. [Moderator] And three-year-olds know how to work iPhones. So I’m telling ya, talk to your children

Let’s thank Dr. Outlaw. [applause]