Paul’s Community Formation Preaching in 1 Thessalonians

An Alternative to the New Homiletic

by Kwang-hyun Cho (Author)
©2017 Monographs 192 Pages


This book increases awareness about Paul’s community formation preaching which has been widely ignored in the contemporary homiletical field where the New Homiletic has exerted a strong influence. By drawing on the sociological concept of symbolic boundaries, the author demonstrates that Paul in his preaching of 1 Thessalonians used three symbolic resources in order to create boundaries for the formation of the Thessalonian community: the kerygmatic narrative, local narratives, and ethical norms. This interdisciplinary study suggests that contemporary preachers, who face the task of forming Christian communities in a post-Christian society, should preach shared narratives and communal norms for the creation of boundaries as Paul did.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgements
  • Table of Contents
  • Chapter One Introduction
  • 1.1. Statement of the Problem and Research Gap
  • 1.2. Research Methodology and Structure
  • 1.3. The Continuity between Paul’s Letters and His Preaching
  • 1.3.1. Communication to Communities of Faith
  • 1.3.2. Repetition of What Paul Preached Before
  • 1.3.3. The Use of Amanuenses
  • 1.3.4. Reading Aloud in the Communities of Faith
  • 1.3.5. A Means of the Apostle’s Presence from a Distance
  • 1.3.6. Conclusion
  • Chapter Two The New Homiletic: The Turn to the Individual Listener
  • 2.1. The Background of the New Homiletic
  • 2.1.1. The Cultural Context of 1960s: The Challenge to Traditional Authority
  • 2.1.2. The Dissatisfaction with Traditional Preaching
  • 2.1.3. The New Hermeneutic
  • 2.2. The Common Characteristics of the New Homiletic
  • 2.2.1. The Elevation of the Listener’s Role: Partner of Preaching
  • 2.2.2. Experience as the Primary Purpose of Preaching
  • 2.2.3. Attention to Alternative Sermon Forms
  • 2.3. A Critical Reflection on the New Homiletic
  • 2.3.1. Critique against the Elevation of the Listener’s Role
  • 2.3.2. Critique against the Primacy of the Experience
  • 2.3.3. Critique against the Attention to the Sermon Forms and Narrative Preaching
  • 2.3.4. Critique against the Turn to the Individual Listener
  • 2.4. Conclusion
  • Chapter Three Paul’s Main Intention of Preaching in 1 Thessalonians: Community Formation
  • 3.1. The Pagan City of Thessalonica: The Cults
  • 3.2. The Thessalonian Community: A Newly Born Gentile Community
  • 3.3. The Suffering of the Community: Conflict with the Larger Pagan Society
  • 3.4. Paul’s Writing of the Letter: Community Formation in the Face of Challenge
  • 3.5. Conclusion
  • Chapter Four Paul’s Preaching for Community Formation: The Creation and Maintenance of Symbolic Boundaries
  • 4.1. Symbolic Boundaries and Community Formation
  • 4.2. Preaching of the Kerygmatic Narrative to Create Boundaries
  • 4.2.1. The Kerygmatic Narrative Incorporated
  • 4.2.2. The Kerygmatic Narrative Functioned as Symbolic Boundaries
  • 4.3. Preaching of Local Narratives to Create Boundaries
  • 4.3.1. Local Narratives Incorporated
  • 4.3.2. Local Narratives Functioned as Symbolic Boundaries
  • 4.4. Preaching of Ethical Norms to Create Boundaries
  • 4.4.1. Ethical Norms Incorporated
  • 4.4.2. Ethical Norms Functioned as Symbolic Boundaries
  • 4.5. Conclusion
  • Chapter Five Homiletical Implications of Paul’s Preaching for Community Formation with Regard to the Post-Christian Context
  • 5.1. Connecting the Post-Christian Context to Paul’s Pre-Christian Context
  • 5.2. Essential Task of Preaching in a Post-Christian Culture: Community Formation
  • 5.3. Preaching Methods for Community Formation
  • 5.3.1. To Preach Shared Narratives
  • 5.3.2. To Preach Ethical Norms
  • 5.4. Conclusion
  • Chapter Six Conclusion
  • 6.1. Summary of the Findings
  • 6.2. Suggestions for Further Study
  • Bibliography

| 11 →

Chapter One


1.1. Statement of the Problem and Research Gap

Though few scholars claim that the approach of the New Homiletic is already becoming old,1 the New Homiletic has determined the ongoing consequence for the homiletical field, especially in North America.2 O. Wesley Allen writes:

Their core contributions continue to be influential in preaching and the study of preaching today. There are few preachers whose approach has not been shaped directly or indirectly by them. There are no homileticians teaching in North America today who would not name this group as the shoulders upon which we stand.3

Current dialogical preaching, seeker-sensitive preaching and even some preachers in the Emerging Church also find their roots in the New Homiletic.4 Scott Gibson therefore states, “The influence of the New Homiletic in late twentieth century and early twenty-first century preaching is wide spread.”5 ← 11 | 12 →

No one denies that the homiletical approach has sparked the proliferation of new homiletical methods and stimulated the renewal of preaching. Proponents of the New Homiletic have contended that conventional styles of preaching are neither attractive nor effective for contemporary listeners and thus have sought an alternative to such preaching through a paradigm shift from the traditional framework of preaching. Richard Eslinger describes the new direction in preaching as “the Copernican Revolution in homiletics.”6 David Lose thusly comments about the influence of the New Homiletic:

Next to the sixteenth century, the twentieth has probably seen a greater interest in the renewal and revival of preaching than any other. In the second half of the century, especially, preachers benefited from a creative “explosion” of available homiletical methods. Many of these have been grouped together under the banner of “the New Homiletic.”7

Reflecting on the development of the New Homiletic, Paul Wilson also contends, “Not since the Middle Age or the Reformation have such mighty winds swept the homiletical highlands.”8

It is, however, also true that the New Homiletic has been challenged by the fundamental question of whether the homiletical development by the New Homiletic has contributed to the development of the church.9 For example, Charles Campbell claims, “One can hardly argue that these ← 12 | 13 → developments have resulted in a more vital and faithful church.”10 He continues:

Beneath the surface, however, signs of trouble can be discerned. The new preaching theories and resources do not appear to have brought new life to the church. Over the same period that homiletics has enjoyed a resurgence, mainline Protestant churches have been in decline. The multiplication of preaching theories and resources has taken place alongside a growing sense of concern, even despair, about the life and future of the church. Recently homiletical developments seem to have accomplished little more than to rearrange the proverbial deck chairs on the Titanic.11

Even one of their own gives a negative response to the question whether the New Homiletic stimulates the resurgence and development of the church: “Majority-culture churches in long-established denominations in North America have been in institutional decline since the beginning of the New Homiletic.”12 The wind of the New Homiletic may be mighty on the homiletical highlands as Paul Wilson stated, but the wind did not blow so strongly for the development of the church.

In addition to the development of the New Homiletic, a tendency of preaching, especially in the churches of the United States, is the scarcity of preaching on the Pauline letters. Paul’s letters have been scholarly considered to be a hot place; the letters do not seem to be attractive to contemporary preachers of the ministerial fields. About the lack of preaching on Paul’s letters, Robert Jewett states, “Paul’s preaching is typically limited to three occasions in contemporary Protestant churches: ‘on Reformation Sunday (Rom. 1:16–17), for weddings (1 Corinthians 13) and for funerals (Rom. 8:31–39)!’”13 Jewett’s observation is not quite different from those even in the twenty-first century. Brad Braxton diagnoses the pervading assumptions about Paul’s letters among contemporary preachers:

Many ministers assume that Paul is difficult to understand, overly opinionated, and supportive of, if not directly responsible for, various kinds of oppression in the church. Consequently, some preachers prefer not to drag the baggage surrounding Paul into their pulpits.14 ← 13 | 14 →

With these assumptions preachers tend to be reluctant to include Paul’s letters in their preaching.

In addition to the scarcity of preaching on Paul’s letters in the church, the legitimacy regarding Paul as a model for contemporary preaching has also been questioned. Paul’s direct and authoritative style of preaching is considered inappropriate for contemporary listeners in a post-modern culture that dislikes authority. J. Christiaan Beker describes the animosity toward Paul’s style: “Many intelligent church members cherish a dislike for Paul because of his presumable arrogance, his doctrinal stance, or his ‘perversion’ of the gospel of Jesus.”15 James Thompson thus claims, “To suggest that Paul’s preaching in a pagan context of the first century is a model for preaching in the twenty-first century is to invite incredulity and resistance from most contemporary preachers.”16 Homiletical texts addressing Paul’s preaching as a model for preaching ministry have been few and far between.

Some scholars admit that the New Homiletic is responsible for the disrespect towards Paul in preaching. As noticed in the subtitle of the work of Eugene Lowry, one of the leading scholars in the New Homiletic: “Why All Sermons Are Narrative,”17 much literature of the New Homiletic treats narrative or story preaching as a primary style of preaching18 that ignores other biblical genres, especially Paul’s letters. Concerning the paucity of preaching from Paul’s letters within the New Homiletic, Nancy Gross observes:

The homiletical trend of the last twenty-five years, from which we are only just now emerging, has been narrative preaching. After generations of “three points and a ← 14 | 15 → poem,” the pendulum swung far in the other direction and the narrative movement caught nearly every preacher’s attention and imagination. According to conventional wisdom, the Pauline epistles clearly do not lend themselves to narrative preaching.19

David Bartlett simply evaluates the recent homiletical trend as follows: “In the legitimate enthusiasm for narrative preaching, we sometimes undervalue Paul.”20 In the text of the New Homiletic, Paul’s preaching is normally not regarded as a model for contemporary preaching.

Despite this exclusion of Paul’s preaching, some scholars have recently advocated that Paul’s preaching has the potential to overcome the limitations of the New Homiletic. James Thompson, in Preaching Like Paul: Homiletical Wisdom for Today, first considered Paul’s preaching model from the letters as a model for contemporary preaching, based on a balanced critique of the New Homiletic. In the section titled “Reflections a Generation Later” of the book, he gives an insightful comment about the New Homiletic:

When I first read the new homileticians, beginning shortly after the publication of Fred Craddock’s Overhearing the Gospel and As One without Authority, I greeted their proposals with enthusiasm, recognizing that narrative could give life to the sermon. However, with the passage of time, I am convinced that, to rescue preaching, something more is needed than the rediscovery of the narrative form. Although I have learned very much from the “new wineskins” of preaching, my earlier enthusiasm for the contributions of the past generation is now tempered by both unanswered questions and reservations about this approach.21

In contrast to the extensively popular interest in narrative preaching proposed by the New Homiletic, Thompson shows that Paul’s letters offer an alternative model for contemporary preaching by demonstrating how Paul’s style of preaching used in the pre-Christian culture is appropriate for the current post-Christian culture. He writes, “Paul is a forgotten mentor in our understanding of preaching. His preaching in a pre-Christian age has much to tell preachers who live in a post-Christian age.”22 His groundbreaking analysis of homiletical dialogue between Paul and contemporary ← 15 | 16 → homiletics exposes a significant area for study, which has been missed under the massive influence of the New Homiletic.

Claiming that the narrative movement in homiletics catches many of scholars’ attention and imagination, Nancy Gross, in If You Cannot Preach Like Paul, also joins the ranks Thompson begins by reclaiming Paul for contemporary preaching in the church. She also poses a problem in contemporary homiletical situation in which Paul’s letters have been ignored and misused in the pulpit: “It is important to reclaim Paul for the preaching ministry of the church because without a vital preaching presence emerging from the Pauline epistles, we are depriving the church of the whole counsel of God.”23 However, it is not enough to pay attention to the Pauline letters in the same way as traditionally practiced. According to Gross, the traditional preaching approaches to the Pauline letters mainly understood Paul as a systematic theologian, using a Pauline text as a proof text or for preaching a linear, rational, deductive argument.24 Preachers should make a paradigm shift from this traditional way of preaching Paul. To do this, she argues that contemporary preachers should do what Paul did, not just say what he said, because his letters are so specific in addressing pastoral situations. According to her, doing what Paul did is to properly consider the nature of Paul’s preaching ministry as a practical theologian.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2018 (March)
Thessalonians Old Testament kerygmatic narrative local narratives ethical norms contemporary preaching symbolic boundaries
Bern, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2017. 191 pp.

Biographical notes

Kwang-hyun Cho (Author)

Kwang-hyun Cho is an assistant professor of Practical Theology (Homiletics) at Korea Theological Seminary, where he received his M.Div. He holds a Th.M. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in homiletics from the University of Pretoria.


Title: Paul’s Community Formation Preaching in 1 Thessalonians
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
book preview page numper 31
book preview page numper 32
book preview page numper 33
book preview page numper 34
book preview page numper 35
book preview page numper 36
book preview page numper 37
book preview page numper 38
book preview page numper 39
194 pages