The late Samuel D. Proctor served as Professor Emeritus and Pastor Emeritus of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City, and had been a visiting professor at Duke and Vanderbilt Universities and Princeton Theological Seminary.
The Certain Sound of the Trumpet offers Proctor’s response to the ongoing demand for a “how-to”, step-by-step approach to powerful sermon development. The author is convicted that sermon preparation is the critical challenge for those who face a congregation every Sunday with a weekly dialogue that is clear, concise, credible, cogent, and convincing. While Proctor warns that his method is not a homiletical elixir, he insists that after many years of spiritual winnowing with traditional and classical methods, he found this Hegelian practicum to be worthy of consideration by those who are called to sound the trumpet with relevance and conviction.
I found the book to be a fresh didactic on sermon preparation. With all due respect to the likes of Thomas Long, David Buttrick, Fred Craddock, and others, Proctor developed this dialectical method from the philosophical constructs of G. W. F. Hegel which allows one to extrapolate from a given text the essence of its meaning and apply it to real life situations. The dialectic method introduces the sermon by establishing a thesis and antithesis and proceeds to ask the relevant question needed to ultimately create a synthesis. The more relevant the question is to the text, the clearer the sermon will be to those who hear the message.
According to this technique, the sermon moves from one thought to another in a manner that can be more easily followed by the listeners, and it defies the traditional understanding of “points”, making such only ancillary to the development of the text. The sermon can then have one major point or four points, all determined by the chosen text.
Proceeding from the proposition, the following process is developed:
Antithesis – this is the real-life situation grounded in the meaning of the text and juxtaposed with the present situation. It is often referred to as the “isness” of things.
Thesis – this is the ideal situation as reflected in the text and mirrored in the community’s history, and is an expansion of the proposition. It is often referred to as the “oughtness” of things.
The relevant question – what does this scripture tell us about the nature and structure of the dilemma faced by the congregation? If the dialectic is recognized between the thesis and the antithesis, then how does the text shed light on a resolution?
Synthesis – the body of the sermon is the resolution of the impasse. The synthesis becomes the reconciliation of the concurrence that was recognized between the thesis and the antithesis.
Used to develop a theme, subject, or proposition, the integral strength of this approach is that it effortlessly addresses the needs of the congregation. In the application of Proctor’s method, the preacher begins by choosing a text and a subject based on the text, and then proceeds to the writing process. The preacher engages a proposition (an abbreviated form of what will become the thesis), as Proctor says, “what you shall have said when the sermon is finished.” It is the sermon in a nutshell!
I loved the book but had some problems with its lack of treatment of the necessary exegesis that would apply using this style. Having used this method for the past ten years, I am aware that the preparation of expository sermons presents unique challenges. The method fits better into narrative, topical, and textual genres.
That being said, Proctor’s approach lends itself to preaching that is biblically sound and contextually relevant. He speaks from within the African American experience of oppression in developing a homiletic; however, the procedure will enhance the preparation of sermons in every cultural setting where preachers attempt to confront the conditions that deny individuals full access to their realization of wholeness.
Proctor’s years of proclaiming the Word of God, pastoring, and effective classroom instruction to pastors, teachers, and seminarians make this a must read for even the seasoned pastor. I recommend this book without reservation.
TITLE: THE CERTAIN SOUND OF THE TRUMPET: CRAFTING A SERMON WITH AUTHORITY
AUTHOR: SAMUEL D. PROCTOR
RELEASED: JULY 1, 1994
JUDSON PRESS, PAPER, 138 PAGES
by Oliver R. Phillips