Preaching to a Divided Nation: A Seven-Step Model for Promoting Reconciliation and Unity

by Matthew D. Kim and Paul A. Hoffman. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2022.

Rodney A. Palmer, DMin, is chair of the department of religion and biblical languages at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States.

Preaching to a Divided Nation is an excellent resource that provides not only valuable insights into the many polarizations and divisions that confront society but also a theologi-cal template that preachers can use to aid them in fostering healing and reconciliation in their congregations. Kim and Hoffman provide preachers with a seven-step model that serves as best practices for the faithful biblical proclamation of Jesus’ love and healing in “a world divided across ethnic, class, sex, and political lines” (1).

The theological step is the first in the model, which underscores the need for preachers to understand and proclaim the arc of Scripture, best viewed through the reconciling narrative of the Creator, first creation, alienation, reconciliation, and final creation. This theological understanding should also include a comprehensive knowledge of sin and the four isms—ethnocentrism, classism, sexism, and partisan polarization. In promoting reconciliation and unity through preaching, the four great equalizers—the imago Dei, human sinfulness, the vast atoning love of Jesus Christ, and the final judgment—must be at the heart of the message.

Step 2 focuses on the contextual aspect and implores homileticians to develop their cultural, emotional/relational, and historical intelligences. In developing historical intelligence, preachers are strongly encouraged to be familiar with the works of ethnic minorities, who provide a perspective that differs from the dominant culture’s account of history. The authors remind readers that “preaching to a divided nation necessitates a level of open-mindedness to interact with those with whom we may disagree and not shy away from difficult conversations” (38). The third stage, the personal step, challenges preachers to engage in the homiletical renewal process, which aids in homiletical maturity. Through this renewal process, preachers will “speak with humility, vulnerability, and holiness, . . . be willing to examine [their] hearts, face [their] prejudices, and allow the Holy Scriptures and the presence of God and others to expose [their] blind spots, so [they] can confess [their] sin to God and safe friends or accountability partners” (41).

Step 4 focuses on the positional aspect of the model. Preachers are reminded they are conduits of the truth and that the Holy Spirit brings about genuine transformation and unity in a divided church and world. Chapter 5 outlines a methodological template for effective preaching in a polarized society. This preaching framework should focus on the shared doctrines, identity, mission, experiences, and virtue formation. Time should also be dedicated to listening with empathy and lament.

For step 6, the practical steps document pre-sermon, mid-sermon, and post-sermon best practices for gospel-centered preaching focused on divisive topics. The final chapter zeroes in on the categorical step, which lists critical biblical themes and texts “that will pack the greatest homiletical punch” at the different isms. The book concludes with a call to action, sample sermons, and other resources for homileticians to exercise holy boldness in confronting the divisive issues in our nation.

In sum, Preaching to a Divided Nation is a timely resource that equips pastors and teachers to effect change through their pulpit ministry, which can lead to widespread transformation and reconciliation. It is not coincidental that Outreach Magazine selected this volume as the 2023 Resource of the Year for Leadership.

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Rodney A. Palmer, DMin, is chair of the department of religion and biblical languages at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States.

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