Ingenuity

Preaching as an Outsider

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Lisa L. Thompson
  • Nashville, TN: 
    Abingdon Press
    , November
     2018.
     210 pages.
     $29.99.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9781501832598.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

Ingenuity: Preaching as an Outsider is an important work that considers the practice and theology of preaching, and situates the book’s content within the preaching ministries of Black women. Author Lisa L. Thompson notes that this book “unapologetically supports the work, ministry, and thriving of black women” (xiv) in the face of these women’s presence and proclamations being contested, particularly for their roles in the pulpit and the classroom.

A principle theme carried throughout this book is an examination of the preaching task, and what that task is like for “outsiders”—in this case, Black women. Woven throughout the book are glimpses into the lives and sermons of seven Black women preachers. While this book addresses stories of struggles before and after their appointments, the text is much more than a justification for the preaching ministry of women.

While centering Black women, Thompson argues, this book is not just for Black women. In the introduction (#PerceivedOutsider), the author makes the case that others need to lean into those closest to the margins given that marginalized bodies, which declare faith and continue to proclaim to fulfill a responsibility to and with faith communities. As Black women’s work and words have been systemically discredited, they offer a particular and distinctive vantage point to consider preaching in the face of a context of religious rhetoric that powerfully shapes public lives.

Ingenuity: Preaching as an Outsider would be an excellent text for both seminary students and pastors. While valuable for homiletics classes, its use beyond them is clear. Additionally, undergraduate students in bible and religion classes will also find value in this book, especially the “in practice” sections at the ends of the chapters. These sections walk the reader through discovering how the biblical text is accomplishing its rhetorical aims in a way that is accessible and appropriate for someone reading the book with a small group, within a course, or working though it on their own. For example, one passage invites these considerations:  “if you read a character’s voice as anger the first time, what happens if you read the voice with sentiments of fear this time?  What happens if you take the character whom you read as the least important character and make them the most important character in the narrative?”  (96).

I was particularly appreciative for the attention to the task of a preacher to simultaneously honor and push back against the biblical text as a way of finding a word for the community that resonates with, and speaks to, their lived experience. Given that this book is framed around the lives and experiences of Black women, it invites deep consideration of the way in which biblical texts have been used to oppress marginalized and vulnerable groups.

Throughout Ingenuity: Preaching as an Outsider, Thompson identifies preaching as work that is done in the context of a gathered community. This continual reminder undergirds the notion that while the preacher brings the word, she does not do this in isolation, and while the position is important and valued, it does not place the preacher in an exalted position above the community. Indeed, as she reminds us, the Black woman preacher has been positioned as outsider. The complexity of this relationship precisely identifies what Thompson notes as a troublesome tendency to stifle our imaginations by identifying legitimate preaching as coming for one kind of body or person. A faithful community seeks to discard the limitations of these stereotypes, even as we exist within their confines. Yet, this involves taking risks. Black women who preach model such risk taking, and Black people who dare to exist in anti-Black spaces embody risk taking. Faith communities of all demographics can learn much from them.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Regina Shands Stoltzfus is Professor of Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies at Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana.

Date of Review: 
January 23, 2020
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Lisa L. Thompson is an ordained Baptist minister and has served in university and parish ministry settings. She majored in both psychology and communication studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and worked in case management before pursuing the study of theology and religion fulltime. 

Keywords: 

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