On March 6, one hundred men and women gathered in South Holland, Illinois for a day-long conference on preaching. The conference was arranged by a committee of Classis West of the Protestant Reformed Churches in connection with the spring meeting of Classis in South Holland the next day. Classis West and its committee—Rev. Ron Cammenga and Rev. Ron Hanko—deserve the thanks of those who attended for a profitable, well-structured conference.
The theme of the conference was expressed in the keynote address: “Preaching in the Reformed Tradition.” The structure of the conference was different from that of similar conferences in the past. Instead of two or three papers on a theme, an opening address was followed by three sets of “sectionals,” each set consisting of three different aspects of preaching. In the sectionals, the audience split up according to preference to hear a brief introduction to a certain aspect of the theme and to discuss that aspect.
The keynote address by Professor Robert D. Decker, professor of practical theology in the PR Seminary, was a strong defense of preaching as the chief means of grace for the people of God, a fervent plea for exegetical preaching, and a compelling advocacy of the “art homily” method of constructing the sermon (“thematic preaching”). Taking note of the dismaying disappearance of this kind of preaching, indeed of preaching as such, in our time; the speaker demonstrated that such preaching is both biblical and “deeply embedded in the Reformed tradition.”
The speech will be published in the April, 1990 issue of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal. Readers of The Standard Bearer can obtain a copy of this issue of the Journal by writing the Seminary at 4949 Ivanrest Ave., Grandville, Ml 49418, or calling (616) 531-1490.
The nine sectionals that took up the rest of the day treated the following aspects of preaching: “Organization and Homiletics”; “Preaching from the Old Testament”; “Heidelberg Catechism Preaching”; “The Importance and Improving of Delivery”; “The Elders’ Oversight of the Preaching”; “Missionary Preaching”; “Series Preaching”; “Preaching as Teaching”; and “Applicatory Preaching.” A preacher introduced each topic; and discussion followed. There are benefits to structuring a conference this way. Many aspects of the theme can be treated. Participants can choose the sessions that most appeal to them. There is opportunity for questions, discussion, and debate. If this format is used in the future, it is important that the introduction be brief and pointed and that lively discussion be encouraged.
It would be good to conclude such a conference with a plenary meeting at which the speakers and the leaders at the sectionals would answer questions arising from the sectionals and questions directed to the speeches. This would enable all who attend to share in the discussion that took place in the sectionals and would serve as a wrap-up of the conference.
As is invariably the case with conferences of this kind among us, there was the enjoyment of fellowship in the unity of the Reformed faith and life according to the “Three Forms of Unity.” We officebearers were reminded of the high calling that is ours, that there continue to be a faithful explanation of Gods Word so that the congregations are built up through the preaching. It is a source of no small encouragement that there is unity of thought and purpose in the PRC concerning the vital activity of the preaching of the Word. Preachers, elders, and people are one in the confession that “the Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts by the preaching of the gospel” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 65).
The women of the South Holland congregation served the conference with fine lunches and dinner.