Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

"Preaching Ministry"

Main content start

Author: King, Martin Luther, Jr.

Date: September 14, 1948 to November 24, 1948?

Location: Chester, Pa.?

Genre: Essay

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. - Career in Ministry


During his first term at Crozer Theological Seminary, King submitted this handwritten outline for Robert E. Keighton’s course Preaching Ministry of the Church.1 The outline reveals King's early commitment to addressing societal needs and ills: “I must be concerned about unemployment, [slums], and economic insecurity. I am a profound advocator of the social gospel.” Keighton marked the paper B+.

  1. The Developement of significant trends
    1. The first significant trend developing in the Christian era of preaching was the rise of the Apostolic fathers.2 Here we get an emphasis placed on the resurrection and immanent return of Christ. This period is divided into two groups
      1. the Diciple
      2. Paul
    2. The second significant trend d which developed in the Christian era was the Age of the Apologist.3 This was the period in which there was an attempt to [vindicate? ] give vindication for the Christian faith.
    3. The third significant trend which developed in the Christian era was that of the Reformation. Immediately after the middle ages two event came about which affected the trend of preaching to a great extent.

      1. the passing of the fudal system.4
      2. The rise of the Renaissance.

      These event brought about a great change in the method of preaching.5 During this period preaching [strikeout illegible] fell into three phases.

      1. Scholastic
      2. doctrinal
      3. allegorical.

      It was during this period that we find such men as Luther, Calvin, and Knox.6 Each of these men were more or less doctrinal preachers.7 It is significant to know that this period marked the beginning of the modern era of preaching.

    4. Immediately after the reformation many different schools of thought developed. Each school of thought had its method of preaching. It is out of this that we get German, French, British, and American preaching.8 The trend at this time appeared to be evangelical. It is significant to know that preaching did not start with Christianity. It had its roots [far?] in the soil of Hebrew culture.

      1. From Moses to Samuel9
      2. to the eighth century prophets10
      3. Rise of the Synagogue

      Preaching was found in each of these groups.

    5. The preaching of the first four centuries was mainly apologetic. After Christ had failed to return, there had to be some justification for the validity of the Christian gospel.11For this reason that the apologist arose. They were out at every turn to defend the Christian religion. Such man as Origen and Justin were forever attempting to prove the divinity of Christ.12 It was doing the period that the Trinitarian doctrine arose.13 It is also significant to know that the preaching of this period was mainly scriptural. The condition of the age required apologetic preaching.

      Twentieth century preaching, on the contrary, deals with great social problem. Moreover, much of our twentieth century preaching is an attempt to adjust individuals to the complexities of modern society. The problem of the virgin birth and the trinity is not the most important features in twentieth century preaching, as was the case in the first four centuries of preaching.14

      Also we find that twentieth century preaching is not as scriptural as was the preaching of the first four centuries.15 The twentieth century preacher uses the Bible as a basis, in many instances then he bring in all the empirical knowledge he can find to supplement that found in the Bible. On the other hand twentieth century preaching might grow out of a novel or a newspaper article. This was not the case in the first four centuries. The differences between these two types are inevitable, for preaching grows out of the times in which the preacher lives.

    6. I fell that preaching is one of the most vital needs of our society, if it is used correctly.16 There is a great paradox in preaching, on the one hand it may be very helpful and on the other it may be very pernicious. It is my opinion that sincerity is not enough for the preaching ministry. The minister must be both sincere and intelligent. To often do our ministers possess the former but not the latter.17 This, I think, is a serious problem facing the ministry.18

      I also think that the minister should possess profundity of conviction. We have to many minister in the pulpit who are great spellbounders and to few who possess spiritual power.19 It is my profound conviction that I, as an aspirant for the ministry, will should possess these powers.

      I think that preaching should grow out of the experiences of the people. Therefore, I as a minister must know the problems of the people that I am pastoring.20 To often do educated minister leave the people lost in the fog of theological abstractions, rather than presenting that theology in the light of the people’s experiences.21 It is my conviction that the minister must somehow take profound theological and philosophical views and place them in a concrete framework. I must forever make the complex, the simple.

      Above all I see the preaching ministry as a duel process.22 On the one hand I must attempt to change the soul of individuals so that their societies may be changed. On the other I must attempt to change the societies so that the individual soul will have a change. Therefore, I must be concerned about unemployment, slumms, and economic insecurity.23 I am a profound advocator of the socal gospel.

[signed] M. L. King24

1. King took ten courses from Keighton at Crozer Theological Seminary. For a list of these courses, see Introduction, in Papers 1:48.

2. The Apostolic Fathers were first and second century CE Christian writers, including Clement of Rome, Ignatius, and Polycarp, whose personal relationships with the Apostles are said to have influenced their writings. According to a syllabus that was included in the instructions for Crozer's comprehensive examination, the course Preaching Ministry addressed the history of preaching, including "the distinguishable periods of Christian preaching" (Crozer Theological Seminary, "Syllabus in preaching and worship," September 1950).

3. The Apologetic period began in the second century CE and included writers such as Justin Martyr, Tatian, and Tertullian.

4. Keighton circled the misspelling "fudal."

5. Keighton added an "s" to the word "event."

6. Martin Luther (1483-1546). John Calvin (1509-1564), and John Know (1513?-1572) were leading figures in the protestant Reformation.

7. Keighton interested the word “was” over the word “were” and added the word “a” between “less” and “doctrinal.” He also crossed put the “s” in “preachers.”

8. Keighton put a question mark at the end of this sentence.

9. Samuel was a prophet prior to and during the early part of the united monarchy in Israel, including the reigns of Saul and David.

10. Eighth century BCE prophets included Amos, Hosea, Micah, and Isaiah.

11. Keighton put a question mark between the words "there" and "had."

12. Origen (185?-?254 CE) was an early church leader and prolific author. Justin Martyr (ca. 100-ca. 165 CE) was one of the earliest theologians and apologists for the Christian church and was put to death.

13. Keighton circled the word "doing." The Trinitarian doctrine, which holds that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one entity, was established through decisions at the Nicene Council (325 CE) and the Council of Constantinople (381 CE).

14. Keighton added an "s" to the word "problem" and inserted the word "are" between the words "trinity" and "not."

15. Keighton wrote the word "so" between the words "not" and "scriptural."

16. Keighton inserted another "e" over the first "I" in the word "fell."

17. Keighton added another ‘‘o” to the word “To.”

18. For a fuller treatment of this theme, see King, Sincerity Is Not Enough, 3 June 1951, pp. 119-120 in this volume.

19. Keighton crossed out the “ou” in the word ” spellbounders,” changing it to “spellbinders.” He also added another “o” to the word “to” in both occurrences.

20. Keighton added commas to set off the phrase “as a minister.”

21. Keighton added another “o” to the word “To.”

22. Keighton circled the word “duel.”

23. Keighton crossed out the second “m” in the word “slumms.”

24. Following common practice for his Crozer assignments, King folded these sheets lengthwise and signed his name on the verso of the last page.

Source: CSKC-INP, Coretta Scott King Collection, In Private Hands, Sermon file, folder 36, "Sermon Notes."

© Copyright Information