Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fred Craddock, Candler School of Theology, Elvis and Graceland


As many who study preaching know, the renowned preacher and former Bandy Distinguished Professor of Preaching and New Testament Emeritus for the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, Fred Craddock, has passed away. He modeled a new wave of narrative preaching that was accepted and copied by many.

While taking a graduate class at another seminary in a preaching class I did a project about him using video clips.  His sermons had Baptist, Church of God and Bible Church ministers responding possitivly and with explosive laughter.  They focused in while Fred Craddock on DVD told many of his memorable stories that wove Scripture into his experience.

Dr. Craddock’s passing had me recalling my days at Candler.  Why? I never got to take any of his classes as he retired from Emory right before I attended there.  Many of his students gleefully told me of the great times and memories they had as he impacted their preaching education.

I love preaching and preachers that have a passion that brings their gifts into service to present the gospel to the lost.
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
“18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”

Unfortunately a few preachers flat out try to copy sermons, preaching styles, and stories as their own.  Nobodies unique gifts can be fully copied. I once heard in preacher of a prominent mega-church use Craddock’s  “once a church now BBQ  restaurant” illustration.  The preacher changed to his own personal story and experience.  Ouch.  Craddock published his stories.
It also reminded me when a heralded Candler professor shared with a class about a student of hers who told about a discussion of alcohol in the church she ministered. Our teacher relayed that her former student said to the congregation in a discussion after a sermon (supposedly) “Jesus drank wine.”  A little old church lady piped in “I would have thought a lot more of him if he didn’t.”  In class the professor had gotten misty eyed about this story's conclusion.  She thought it was tragic when in fact the story in its original was one of great humor.
I did not have the heart to tell my professor that it was amazing Jerry Clower, the famous Southern humorist, who told a similar story that was a punch line in his book
‘Life Everlaughter: The Heart and Humor of Jerry Clower’.
In my graduate preaching class, where as I student a presented the Craddock DVDs, my fellow students of preaching loved what we heard in Craddock's sermons. In class it was noted that his many imitators did not seem to really get it or that we all have a style of their own. Our class professor said some take it as far as having a “hermeneutic of suspicion” when approaching the Biblical text. Now a continual stream of sarcasm is in some preachers weekly message.  That means snarkiness, which is non-synonymous with the gospel.  Copying Craddock in all detail makes no more sense than preachers who used to wear Hawaiian shirts because Rick Warren used to.  Many Hawaiian shirt wearing preachers in rural North Georgia did not seem to grasp that they preached in a different environment than under evangelized southern California.  We have the same gospel to resent with the gifts of many different preachers.

Jude 1: 3 tells us “… that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”  

My regret is that I never had Fred Craddock as my preaching teacher.  At Candler I felt at times like I was at Graceland and told “Elvis has left the building” for good.  Instead at Candler the implied sentiment was “Craddock has left the building”  "He was great."  Like the old Jimmy Buffett live album title "You Should Have Been There."

I value great teachers.  We need to imitate one in preaching essence.  Our Savior put up the carpentry tools early.  He was the greatest preacher. 
In His first sermon in Mark 1:15  He said “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”

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