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Augustine and Collaborative Preaching

Augustine and Collaborative Preaching

There is an interesting article over at It’s from January of this year, but I just recently read it. It included the following quote from Augustine:

There are, indeed, some men who have a good delivery, but cannot compose anything to deliver. Now, if such men take what has been written with wisdom and eloquence by others, and commit it to memory, and deliver it to the people, they cannot be blamed, supposing them to do it without deception For in this way many become preachers of the truth (which is certainly desirable), and yet not many teachers; for all deliver the discourse which one real teacher has composed. [Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, 4.29]

I’ve reflected on the Augustine quote, and I’ve got a problem with his logic (I think). Augustine draws a distinction between preachers and teachers. The one who studies and writes the sermon is the teacher, while the orator who delivers it is the preacher. He says this is an agreeable arrangement, as long as proper credit is given (i.e. “without deception”), in fact he argues that it is good because,

in this way many become preachers of the truth(which is certainly desirable), and yet not many teachers

He seems to be referring to James 3:1, which says,

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

OK, so this sounds reasonable to therefore say, “let’s just let the gifted teachers write, and everyone else can preach their sermons” and we honor James 3:1 in that way. The difficulty is that if the ones doing the preaching are doing so in the capacity of elders/pastors, then we have set James in opposition to Paul, who says that elders must be “able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2). We can’t say, “let’s have pastors who are orators but not teachers”, because the bible clearly states that the “able to teach” is a requirement for pastors, not “able to memorize and deliver someone else’s teaching”.

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