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brett jones – transformance: more than meets the eye…

I like to make up new words. You’d think there might already be enough to go round! But sometimes new words are required… As I wrestle with the goal and act of preaching, the tension which sometimes exists between the two seems to require something new.


Barbara Brown Taylor encapsulates the tension beautifully:


Watching a preacher climb into the pulpit is a lot like watching a tight rope walker climb onto the platform as the drum roll begins. The first clears her throat and spreads her notes; the second loosens his shoulders and stretches out one rosin-soled foot to test the taut rope.  They both step out into the air, trusting everything they have done to prepare for this moment as they surrender themselves to it, counting now on something beyond themselves to help them do what they love and fear and most want to do.


Preachers need to take the performance aspects of preaching seriously, the development of the craft of preparation and delivery, and not simply abandon the performance to “let go and let God”. There is value in reducing the unintended distraction of idiosyncrasy as well as enriching our, often limited, default preaching styles.


But performance is never the goal of preaching.


The goal of preaching is transformation. And transformation does not itself come about because of how clever, or how fluent, or how nuanced, or how incredibly funny we might be. Transformation is God’s domain. And yet, strangely God invites preachers into the domain of revelation to be part of the dynamic of revelation and response that characterises transformation. We might well pray that our presence there might not dispel His presence, but the truth of the matter is that, while we might not be the source of transformation we can certainly suppress it when we are casual in the performance aspects of the act of preaching.


In a place of such tension a new word is needed: transformance. I love what Thomas Oden says of the intersection of the preacher’s performance and moments of transformation:


“…one may experience oneself grasped inwardly by the claim and power of the gospel…”


And in this moment of being grasped inwardly, performance is swept up as the preacher himself is transformed. Transformance. So much more…


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Brett is pastor to cession|community in the eastern suburbs of Auckland and Assistant National Superintendent (Church Development) for the Wesleyan Methodist Church.  In his spare time he is father to 3 and husband to 1.

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