Each of us realizes there are areas in which we need to grow. In some ways I want to avoid and excuse my weak areas, hoping they’ll just get better or won’t be too visible or debilitating. On the other hand I don’t want to be stuck where I am, so it is beneficial that part of my work in church planting involves a learning contract. One aspect of my learning contract focuses on development in my preaching. So I’m reading, reflecting, and writing. I just finished Why Johnny Can’t Preach which diagnoses a lack of skilled preaching in American churches – specifically among the denominational and theological groups with which I’d identify. His basic argument is that most pastors are unpracticed in reading texts and in thoughtful composition due to cultural shifts in reading and communication. Gordon’s argument is persuasive, especially as I’ve interacted with two other works. First, I’ve been reading Dracula by Brahm Stoker, which came preloaded on my nook. This books is wonderfully written and has prompted other trains of thought, on which I’ll write later. In Dracula the whole story is told through the journal entries of the various characters. These are thoughtfully and beautifully composed entries (see a few quotes below) stand as a significant contrast to Gordon’s picture of our society where few regularly sit down to write. I don’t think a contemporary author could believably tell a story this way. I’ve also been listening to a series of lectures on Christian Manhood illustrated from three figures of the Civil War. The basis of these lectures largely originate in diary entries and correspondence. As I listened to quotes and excerpts from these varied materials I was struck by the elegance and gravity of their speech. Here is the description of the death of one of these men:
A few moments before he died he cried out in his delirium, “Order A.P. Hill to prepare for action! Pass the infantry to the front rapidly! Tell Major Hawks”—then stopped, leaving the sentence unfinished. Presently a smile of ineffable sweetness spread itself over his pale face, and he said quietly, and with an expression, as if of relief, “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.”
Both the description of his death and the parting words carry incredible weight. I would like to write and speak in such a manner.
Today is a grey day, and the sun as I write is hidden in thick clouds, high over Kettleness. Everything is grey – except the green grass, which seems like emerald amongst it; grey earthly rock; grey clouds, tinged with the sunburst at the far edge, hang over the grey sea, into which the sand-points stretch like grey fingers. The sea is tumbling in over the shallows and the sandy flats with a roar, muffled in the sea-mists drifting inland. The horizon is lost in a grey mist. All is vastness; the clouds are piled up like giant rocks and there is a “brool” over the sea that sounds like some presage of doom.