It isn’t just that so many Protestants exalt preaching above other pastoral arts. The challenge is preaching itself. ProÂclaiming the gospel demands an interplay of highly developed emotional-spiritual-physical-intellectual qualities. Walking naked down Main Street while playing a harmonica is nothing compared to the personal exposure required to talk about God for 20 minutes to a group of people who have been, all week long, avoiding even the barest mention of God.
An additional difficulty is the uniquely auditory nature of the Christian faith. There may be much to be said for quiet, apophatic spirituality. But Paul says that faith “comes from hearing”””through the ear, not the eye. Public, verbal testimony is the fount of all Christian belief and practice. In a culture in which words are cheap, how do we produce even a few people with the guts to witness to so strange and countercultural a gospel, which begins with, “And God said . . .”? Nobody enters the full Christian faith without the aid of a preacher. But who becomes a preacher without a skilled teacher?