Preaching to Strangers: Evangelism in Today’s World. By William H. Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas. Louisville: Westminster/ John Knox Press, 1992. vii + 144 pages. Paper, $9.99.
Willimon and Hauerwas, friends and colleagues at Duke University, here share part of an ongoing discussion between them about Willimon’s preaching. Hauerwas, professor of divinity and law, often hears Willimon preach at Duke Chapel as part of Willimon’s duties as Dean of the Chapel. The book is comprised of ten messages by Willimon and Hauerwas‘ responses to each of them.
Willimon’s messages reflect the Duke Chapel setting. He addresses people in the academic community who are “strangers” in that they are not a congregation as such. They have no common tradition and often have little or no Christian commitment. Willimon does a remarkable job of declaring the gospel in that demanding setting.
But Willimon’s sermons still have room for improvement on many Sundays, according to Hauerwas. Though Hauerwas dispenses praise freely at times, he demands more from the sermon, even though he admits he may be asking for the impossible. Hauerwas repeatedly warns Willimon not to accommodate the gospel to American culture, but instead to declare the gospel at its confrontive best.
This volume is no quick read; following Hauerwas‘ analysis is not always easy. But Willimon and Hauerwas may prove to be stimulating for those who share their concerns and minister in similar settings.