Preaching Articles

One of the most persistent misunderstandings that people have with is the idea that Soul Preaching is teaching black people to only preach to black people. One white preacher asked me on Facebook once, “Why do you talk about preaching only to black people? Everybody needs to hear the gospel. Some of my favorite preachers are black preachers…”

I asked him, “Why are black preachers some of your favorites?” He answered that he likes the way these preachers used story and applied the scripture to real life. I then told him, "I try to teach all of my readers (black and white) to incorporate such insights as that into their preaching.”

Others want me to address how to preach to white folks or people of other ethnicities. They ask me, “How do I change this to preach to white people?”

All of this misunderstands what I am trying to do on my website. I must hasten to add that there are others who get the idea and apply the insights to their context. For example, another preacher told me, “What you are teaching works just fine when this white preacher preaches to his white congregation.” And I believe that. I am just happy to offer to the universal Christian church the insights from the African American tradition. These insights will help you preach to anybody who is in front of you. No, they don’t replace Haddon Robinson or Bryan Chapell, but they do stand next to them to aid in the sermon development process.

Preaching to Everybody

I have preached to congregations where I was the only black person in the room. I have also preached to congregations that were totally African American. And I have addressed different mixtures, as well. And let me say this: I always use the techniques and tools that I have learned from the black preaching tradition as well as other preaching teachers.

It is true that I do make some alterations, but these alterations are largely stylistic and relativity minor. The congregational response may be more audible in some congregations than others. Some congregations show it on the face more than they show it with their mouth—maybe it is just a hearty "Amen," but it is still congregational response. There may not be whooping in your church (African American or non) but the preacher may change his tone, may have an increase or decrease in volume. Maybe it is a simple run, but it is often some form of verbal embellishment and style added to the preaching moment.

This Will Help You

So yes, the tradition is applicable to you, whether you are a white preacher preaching to black folks, a black preacher preaching to white folks, a black preacher preaching to black folks, or some other ethnicity preaching to some other ethnicity. The tradition will help you address them, because if you have some folks who have had life hit them upside the head, the tradition will help you. If you have some folks in your congregation who have lost their job, yes, the tradition is going to help you.

In short, the keys the black tradition gives you will help. What are the keys? Well, let’s quickly review some of them.

A key like celebration is applicable to all churches (when celebration is called for). The key of having a tendency to look at the scripture from the perspective of the underdog or the poor is applicable to all churches. The key of trying to put thegreat theological concepts into the language of “grandma and dem” is applicable to all churches. The key of emphasizing the practical over the theoretical is also applicable to all churches. The key of making the Bible story our story through identification with the Bible character is applicable to all churches. The key of allowing the individuality of the preacher to come through is applicable to all churches. The key of structuring the sermon for maximum impact is applicable to all churches. The key of emphasizing a theology of God with us in our pains and hurts is applicable to all churches.

I remember an eye-opening experience at seminary. Dr. Brad Braxton, one of my homiletics instructors, played for us two sermons. In the first sermon, he was addressing an upper middle-class white congregation in a suburban context. I believe it was in Dallas. He preached, and the people responded. No, they weren't shouting, but you could see it. He used the black tradition. No, he didn’t whoop, but he had a celebration. He used intonation. He had solid Biblical content presented in a powerful way.

He then played his sermon to a predominantly African American congregation in urban Chicago. The style was a bit more amplified, but it was still just as celebrative a conclusion where the people responded.

Both sermons used the black preaching tradition, and no one felt as though they were discriminated against. Just like black gospel music is not just meant to be heard by white people, and just like jazz music is not only meant for black people, the black preaching tradition, when it is at its best, helps and blesses all who come in contact with it.

Sherman Haywood Cox II is the director of Soul Preaching. He holds the M.Div with an emphasis in Homiletics and a M.S. in Computer Science.

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Talk about it...

Chet Gladkowski

commented on Aug 1, 2012

AMEN Brother Sherman!

Anthony R. Watson

commented on Aug 1, 2012

Outstanding article, and a great defense of Black preaching.

Jay Craig

commented on Aug 1, 2012

Very well writ article.

Steven Brown

commented on Aug 1, 2012

I didn't know preaching had a color. :-)

Alex Pickens Iii

commented on Aug 1, 2012

You helped me with this article. Keep banging.

John E Miller

commented on Aug 1, 2012

Acts 17:26

R.l. Wilson

commented on Aug 1, 2012

I know there was a difference in style but there is also a difference between preacher and a teacher. I just teach because I'm not a whoop and holler type. After all the whooping are you really saying anything?

Monica Price

commented on Aug 1, 2012

While we want to believe that there should be no difference in our delivery (the Word of God is the Word of God), honesty must prevail. Your audience makes all the difference! Our varied cultural background and social constructs creates the framework for our receptivity. Peace

Pollie Marabe

commented on Aug 2, 2012

I can't say anything, I'm a brown people! Preaching and teaching should move the audience to what God expected! Thanks !@

Charles C. Berry

commented on Aug 2, 2012

I am black chaplain at a dention center in NM and preach with the help of a translator and get I a lot of Gloria a dios, Amen, paz a Cristo. I seem to have no problems accept I speak very, very little Spanish (I speak in no tongue ) smile. The spirit is still active. Amen.

Pastor Sandy .

commented on Aug 2, 2012

Sherman, I love your articles. I watch for them with great anticipation! I usually preach to a group of predominantly white folk, but we have quite a few black folk in the group as well. There is nothing more affirming than to hear a hearty "Amen" coming from somewhere in the congregation. It usually serves to spice up my presentation a little. I always find something in your musings to "take away!" Keep up the good work.

Chris Surber

commented on Aug 2, 2012

Great article Shermon. I've in fact grown from exposure to black preaching. I was part of an ordination council locally where I was invited... perhaps by mistake? :) ... and was the only white preacher and one of only perhaps 2-3 white people in the later ordination ceremony with a few hundred in attendance. I listened as the sermon was "sang" with incredible cadence, emphasis, and variation in tone and pitch etc. Now, I am hardly monotone already, and it was a great encouragment to me to be there. Turns out, I'm a bit of a black preacher too! Who knew... These insights can be applied and should be in most any context.

Daniel Baldwin

commented on Aug 3, 2012

I think JESUS for being color blind toward His children!!!!

Dewayne J.r. Coleman

commented on Aug 4, 2012

Great article Sherman. I wish that some people would not respond. True preaching has no color but I think we all know were Sherman is going with this article keep all rude responses to yourself please. For those who don't whoop thats fine but some people like it. If your just a teacher you may need to read Ephesians 4:11. I'm a man of color and the congreagation that I'm blessed to lead is very diverse and I preach and teach and I use high and low tones depending on the point that I'm making. So I said all of that to say this let's keep it positive when we comment. Thumbs up to you Brother Cox.

Dewayne J.r. Coleman

commented on Aug 4, 2012

Sorry Sherman I misspelled congregation. My bad I was in a rush to comment.

Don Davies

commented on Dec 18, 2021

I really beg to disagree! Black sermons are for all people for it has always taught us God's message of love and acceptance of all! I really admire him and a black preacher out here in Houston, Keion Henderson, for really doing great things for people and of course for the greater Glory of God!

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