African Pentecostal Kinetic Preaching, Part 2

By: Nimi Wariboko
Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

african_preaching_2In Part I of this essay, I examined the kinetic nature of African Pentecostal preaching.  We discussed the sheer energetic force of preaching as a full-blooded dramatic performance. The performance requires an ensemble of skills that draws the people to one another, to the preacher, and to God. In that very act of centripetal collation and knitting of emotions and foci, there is a subtle mastery of centrifugal energy fashioned to maintain a circle of aura around the preacher. This is what I want to discuss today. My guiding question remains: are seminaries in the North America adequately preparing their students for this kind of preaching? 

The ministration or preaching involves the delicate skill of simultaneously distancing and domesticating the spiritual powers (anointing) that the man with the microphone exudes. Since the God’s invisible powers are distanced, omnipotent, and omniscient, those who have privileged access to them insist on obedience without question. So in their ministrations they demand absolute obedience to their commands and directions. But as you have observed the powerful minister also mingles with the crowd. Pentecostal ministers simultaneously create and erase distance between them and the people. This double act derives, partly, from the character of the invisible or the belief in spiritual forces and spiritual beings. The invisible is distanced but in its omnipresence it is also near. There is no notion of the supernatural without a sense of contiguity. The supernatural is also near because both the minister and the audience share its notion of phantasm.

More importantly, the distancing of power between the minister and the audience is erased or reduced because of the necessity of having tactile perception of the congregants if power is to be effectively displayed or the glory of power is to be used to awe the audience. Pastors touch bodies with anointed hands, sweating bodies falling on one another under the power of his anointing, and hands of their followers are locked in prayer chains with him so that the much needed anointing can flow into the bodies of the people. Pentecostal leaders, more than other religious leaders, cannot repudiate the tactile element of power.[1]

What you are witnessing is the powerful art form of Pentecostal preaching, which challenges the leading paradigms of homiletics in historic mission Christianity. The African Pentecostal preacher is of a different breed, set apart from the stately and subdued preacher in the mainline churches. Pentecostal preaching is not linear and always logical in sequence, but it is always becoming, pressing into places of surprises, and modeling the unpredictability of the Spirit. The preacher has enough skills to take in as much contingence as possible without dissipating or impairing the logic of his message.

Preaching involves prayers, singing, ecstatic dancing, reading of scriptures, actual proclamation, speaking in tongues, prophecies, telling stories and witnessing, dealing with irruptions of the Spirit and interruptions, quoting biblical verses from memory, and tactile feel of the people. Preaching is a drama set within worship as a play. The preacher encourages the active participation of every member in the play. The preacher bears the weight of the free, spontaneous, and organic liturgy and is capable of keeping the audience spellbound for over an hour. Preaching is a world of becoming, always conveying something about the actualization of potentiality that does not yet exist. African Pentecostal preaching is an exemplar of kinetic Pentecostal preaching anywhere in the world.

The question now is: can our seminaries with their formal, excessively subdued stance on homiletics and preference for the highly stylized 20-minute clip educate students for preaching in this emerging global tradition? Millions of Christians—not only in Africa but all over the world—are used to “kinetic preaching.” I am not sure if North American seminaries are adequately preparing students for this kind of preaching or are simply ignoring the millions of Christians who have embraced charismatic spirituality and its forms of kinetic preaching. Think about the predominant form of preaching 20 years or more from today.

No doubt there are some seminaries already doing this all over North America, but where I am in Boston, I hear from many African American and Pentecostal seminarians that their preaching and homiletics courses do not adequately equip them for the kinetic preaching. I would like to hear from teachers who have developed courses and workshops to equip seminarians for the practice of old-fashioned pentecostal kinetic preaching.


[1] On the issues of tactile elements of power and also distancing and domesticating of power, see Achille Mbembe, On the Postcolony (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), 212-213. His work inspired this paragraph and the previous one.

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Nimi Wariboko
This entry was posted by on Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 at 1:03 pm and is filed under Church Ministry, Education, Faith & Culture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Response to “African Pentecostal Kinetic Preaching, Part 2”

  1. Their inability to produce students following this trend may confirm the argument in some quarters that the African Pentecostalism is aboriginal and never actually was a part of what blossom out of the North American Azusa street revival.