Evolution of Preaching Part II: Puritan and Great Awakening to Modern Times

Puritan Movement and The Great Awakening

The Reformation gave rise to a lot of new movements within Protestantism. One of such movement was the Puritan movement which we talked about briefly on the article last week. Puritan preachers often used vivid imagery, intense language, and extended metaphors to convey their message with conviction. The Puritans style of preaching is characterized by its earnestness, simplicity, and emphasis on the Scriptures. Overall, Puritan preachers were known to be preacher-teachers because of the theological depth, persuasive persuasion, and impassioned delivery of their sermons.

The Great Awakening preachers shared the same tradition of the Puritans. Doctrinal Intensity and Emotional Appeal characterized their preachings. These herald preachers combined doctrinal depth with emotional fervor. Sermons aimed to evoke strong emotional responses from the audience. George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley were some of the most influential preachers from this period. Along with encouraging black preaching, Whitefield produced a noteworthy line of African American preachers that culminated in Andrew C. Marshall in Savannah. Black preachers frequently combined their personal stories with those from Scripture through the deft use of story preaching.

This period also marked a form of Intellectual Engagement. The Enlightenment saw an increased emphasis on reason and intellectual engagement in preaching. Preachers sought to combine religious teachings with rational thought and often addressed social and political issues

19th Century Revivalism and 20th Century Diversity

The 19th century witnessed the rise of revivalist and evangelical preaching styles. Herald preachers were the stars of this period. Prominent figures like Charles Finney , Dwight Moody and Philips Brooks employed passionate delivery, vivid imagery, and emotional appeals to convert and inspire audiences. Preachers across different church traditions and denominations such as Charles Spurgeon and Charles Simeon were knowns for their passionate herald preaching that employed deep theological teachings also.

The advent of radio and television in the 20th century transformed preaching styles. Evangelists like Billy Graham reached vast audiences through the use of the television, and the medium influenced a more dynamic and visually engaging preaching style. Visionaries like John Harold Ockenga and Karl Barth championed this diversity by encouraging theological preaching. Seminaries and Bible schools were set up during this period to support the theological Bible movement. Other preachers like Martin Luther King Jr used their preaching to address poverty, suffering, and oppression from a Biblical framework.

Modern Times

Where we are right now is a sum total of where we’ve been. The evolution of preaching has brought us to modern times. Today, preaching styles vary greatly, with an emphasis on relevance, authenticity, and engagement. This is good but also presents a lot of dangers when the methods are given attention beyond the message. Preachers now use multimedia presentations, interactive sermons, and incorporate various forms of technology to connect with their audience. The influence of social media has also played a significant role in spreading the message of preachers to a wider audience. As we continue to evolve, the art of preaching will undoubtedly adapt to the ever-changing world we live in, yet the timeless truth of the Gospel remains central to the message.







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