As a former co-editor of Preacher’s Magazine, David Busic knows his share about preaching and homiletical theory, but some of his deepest understandings and insights have come from firsthand experience as a pulpiteer in churches he’s served in California, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Grace and Peace Magazine caught up with David to ask him a few questions on his approach to preaching. Despite a full schedule as senior pastor of Bethany First Church of the Nazarene in Oklahoma, it wasn’t too hard to get David to share with G&P readers about one of his deepest loves.
GP: What has shaped your approach to preaching and the way you craft sermons?
Busic: It started by listening to good preaching in my local church when I was a kid. My pastor was an excellent preacher who inspired and motivated me.
What we know as the first real purpose statement for homiletics came from Augustine. He said that preaching was designed to teach, inspire, and delight. The teaching part is pretty obvious;we are supposed to teach God’s Word to God’s people. The inspiring part means that people are much better motivated by love and desire than by fear or guilt. The part we sometimes miss is delighting;it means that our preaching is supposed to be interesting and creative. It would be a shame to take something as alive as God’s Word and be boring. So, the combination of all of those things has shaped the way I craft sermons.
I love the challenge of pastoral preaching: to speak to the same group of people week in and week out, year in and year out, keeping them motivated and interested— preaching to a college professor in one seat and a blue collar worker in another. I love that challenge. Pastoral preaching is my favorite preaching.
GP: Has your preaching been something you have done primarily yourself or has it now become a more collaborative process, where you invite people into your thinking before you actually get up and preach?
Busic: Preaching is a conversation and journey you have with your people. Fred Craddock is the one who first helped me understand that. He said that much preaching today is the preacher spending 15 to 20 hours in sermon preparation to arrive at the moment of proclamation, who then begins the sermon at the point of discovery derived after 20 hours of research. Why not start with the people back where you started? Help them move through the discovery, rather than, “Here’s an answer I’ve deduced for you.” Somehow, in that 30 minutes of preaching, you can walk them through the “aha!” moments that you had along the way, so they feel like they have discovered something instead of just being told something—they have made that discovery themselves.
People are drawn to stories; Jesus’ style taught us that.
Narrative preaching and expository preaching are not mutually exclusive. You can be faithful to the exposition of the Word and at the same time be interesting. People are drawn to stories; Jesus’ style taught us that. Incredible truth can be proclaimed and understood and discovered through a story that is common to everyone. It is important to incorporate both aspects, being faithful to the text and to the people to whom we are preaching.
GP: To whom would you point, either in book form or in person, as a mentor and influence on your preaching?
Busic: Fred Craddock has influenced my preaching. Barbara Brown Taylor has also influenced my preaching. Those are the people that I have read. I was also very blessed to have great teaching models/preaching models; one of my preaching professors was Steve Green. Steve is one who set a very high standard for pastoral preaching that could be both academically sound and also very practical. One of the things that Steve helped me understand about approaching a biblical passage is that in every text there is a need, an answer, and a response. The need always has something to do with the human problem. There is a human problem that the text is trying to answer. When you can discover what that problem is, you can begin to ask, “What does this text tell us about dealing with that human problem?” The answer always has something to do with God. It is the God question. What is God doing about this human problem? When we find the theological component of the text, (the God answer) then we find the solution to that problem.
So there is the need, the human need, the God answer, but no sermon is complete until you come to the response.
Whenever we avoid the God issue, or try to find another way to deal with the human problem, we have moved into a subtle legalism, which is us trying to do for ourselves what only God can do for us. So there is the need, the human need, the God answer, but no sermon is complete until you come to the response. Every sermon, whether it culminates in an altar call, a prayer time, any other response, requires a decision, or it is not a sermon. What am I going to do with what I have heard today? So, need, answer, response… these are things my good teacher Steve Green helped me to understand.
GP: In what ways do you see, and drawing from your own tradition, the relationship of holiness to preaching?
Busic: The relationship of holiness to the preaching task to me is that we have a target we are shooting for in all of our discipleship and all of our preaching—that target is Christlikeness. Christlikeness is the biblical standard for what the holy life looks like. All biblical preaching can lead people to a better understanding of Christlikeness and a better understanding of how that transformation happens in their own lives and heart. Any holiness preaching that tends to be more systematic in its approach and focused on ”how to,” instead of the actual transformation that happens in a person, gets the cart before the horse. A person’s life simply bears fruit; we don’t make the fruit happen. People are transformed into something, and their lives begin to bear fruit naturally. I think that is where some holiness preaching has failed us. When we try to say that holiness is about what we don’t do or something special we do to improve our standing with God, we have failed to proclaim the radical optimism of grace. The greatest message we have to preach is that it is possible in this lifetime to be a Christlike person through the power of the Spirit.
GP: In what ways do you see the task of preaching changing today?
We have a task not only to proclaim the truth of scripture, but to recast a love for what this alternative world looks like.
Busic: The preaching task is changing today in that a preacher can no longer assume biblical knowledge in those we preach to. When I first started pastoring, there was a basic understanding that when you were preaching to the church, everyone had a basis by which they could understand the scriptures. I have stopped assuming that. Now I am careful to draw back to the basics and the big themes of scripture, so that I don’t miss people along the way. There is a biblical illiteracy, even in the church today, that preachers are partly to blame for. We have a task not only to proclaim the truth of scripture, but to recast a love for what this alternative world looks like, and that this kingdom we are living toward is possible for people. God’s Word is a vehicle for us to be on that path, but those are things I don’t assume any more.
DAVID BUSIC serves as senior pastor of Bethany First Church of the Nazarene in Bethany, Oklahoma
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