Prophetic preaching from the Black church pulpit needs to come back.
Perhaps no one is more aware of this than Rev. Wayne E. Croft Sr. He is one of the first to point out that the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. was reviled by the mainstream media for sound bites who did not understand traditional prophetic preaching.
In fact, in a “politically correct” environment many African-American pastors are pulling back from this style in favor of more sensational or prosperity preaching.
So, this is the dilemma that Crofts’ new book, “Unexpected Calls to Unexpected Places” addresses head on. Croft is well aware of the challenges African-American pastors face.
Currently the pastor of St. Paul’s Baptist Church in West Chester, Croft previously served the Church of the Redeemer Baptist in Philadelphia for more than 20 years.
“It’s like looking back to Jonah when he was called to preach in Ninevah,” said Croft in an exclusive interview prior to the book’s release. “Sometimes God calls us to unexpected places. Sometimes we are called to return to the rich tradition of African-American prophetic teaching. Unfortunately that is on the decline and many pastors are actually running away from it.
“From this style of preaching we are able to understand where we are as a community and where we are going. This preaching speaks directly about the social ills, both as individuals and as a community. It’s important to get back to that style of preaching to help solve the problems we are facing in our community,” Croft said.
Ironically, Croft holds the Jeremiah A. Wright Sr. Associate Professor of Homiletics and Liturgics in African-American Studies chair at the Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia. He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and has been inducted into the Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Preachers of Morehouse College.
In his pulpit he is known for retaining the prophetic preaching style. He attributes this to his ability to reach his congregants with messages that would otherwise be more difficult to digest. “This preaching is rich with the African- American rhetorical style and is a way to [release] our indignation over oppression. It actually helps our community to heal by preaching in this arena,” Croft said.
Croft presented his new book at the recent Book Celebration Convocation held at the LTSP on March 17. Other faculty authors who made presentations included the Rev. Katie Day, who authored “Faith on the Avenue: Religion on a City Street” about houses of worship along Germantown Avenue. The Rev. Karyn Wiseman, the director of United Methodist Studies, is the author of “I Refuse to Preach a Boring Sermon.”
In his book, the Rev. Claudio Carvalhaes discusses the “Eucharist and Globalization” while the Rev. Storm Swain, director of Anglican Studies, has a new volume that addresses “Trauma and Transformation at Ground Zero.”
When Croft made his presentation at the convocation he was introduced by Rev. Wil Gafney, the LTSP associate professor of Hebrew and the Old Testament. She pointed out that the Rev. Otis Moss III penned the book’s foreword.
“During my sabbatical year I went into chronic depression,” Croft said. He said that he had to go through a personal catharsis. That’s when he realized the importance of the things he heard in prophetic sermons throughout his life were therapeutic. This lead to the realization of another calling and eventually to pen the book about the power of prophetic preaching.