This interview was recorded live from the exhibit floor of the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting on June 2018, in Dallas, Texas. Robert Smith is a Preaching Professor and holds the Charles T. Carter Baptist Chair of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.
Michael Duduit: Welcome to another Preaching Magazine mini interview. I’m visiting today with Dr. Johnnie Bradley who is Pastor of the Shiloh Church in Dallas, Texas. Not only that but also a Doctor of Ministry graduate from Clamp Divinity School, Anderson University. We’re particularly proud to be able to call you one of our graduates.
Johnnie Bradley: Yes sir.
Michael Duduit: Talk to me a little bit about what you enjoy most about preaching these days.
Johnnie Bradley: Well, preaching these days, I would say, has more of a multi-ethnic flavor. Being raised in a community that I was raised in, around different people groups, and being a former athlete, I would have never imagined that the Lord would allow me to be called to preach, and still have an opportunity to fellowship and share with a multi-ethnic crowd. And so it has more of a multi-ethnic flavor being that, the transition of preaching from more textual, topical preaching to exposition preaching.
That’s what I love more about preaching. I think too, what is new, or probably not new, but I would say more visible now than it has ever been before, is the celebration of preaching on the end of being excited about exposing the texts.
Michael Duduit: Now, you did your doctor of ministry project, studying the preaching of Dr. EK Bailey for many years, who was pastor of Concord Missionary Baptist Church here in Dallas. He was a very influential leader, pastor.
Johnnie Bradley: Yes sir.
Michael Duduit: What are some, of the things you learned about preaching from Dr. Bailey, that you’ve been able to kind of use in your own ministry?
Johnnie Bradley: Well, one of the things that studying Dr. Bailey’s books to preaching is that he humbled himself to the point, to realize that his method or his style would not be able to impact or challenge the current audience that the Lord had blessed him to preach to. He knew to be more focused when it comes to shifting from the topic of text preaching to expositional preaching, so that he could grow the saints, that they can be tools for the work of ministry.
He realized that his method of preaching wasn’t going to impact, not only the congregation he had but even preaching in different settings. He humbled himself, I guess is what I’m saying. I’m the mighty hand of God, to be exposed, to expositional preaching. That’s one of the major things. He was already popular. He wasn’t trying to expand his name or his ministry. He just realized what he was doing, probably in the years to come wasn’t gonna work.
Michael Duduit: Now, I’ve been in your church. Enjoyed preaching in your church. I’ve heard you preach. One of the things that are distinctive about the African American church worship experience, is that celebration at the end. I know you do this in your own ministry. How do you blend that exposition of the text into the celebration in the sermon?
Johnnie Bradley: You have to be disciplined, and make sure that you stay true to the text. If you have not done a good job, I would say with the meat of the text … Every good piece of meat makes its own gravy.
You don’t have to force it. What happened to me yesterday at church, when I stood up to preach, the holy spirit led me to change the title of my sermon. I was nervous because I had prepared to utilize another title. I was led to change the title because I sensed the hurt and the challenges of the members of the church. When I changed the title of the sermon, it’s as if that meat was marinating even more, just by being obedient to the Holy Spirit. Had my intro, you know, my thesis statement, proposition, there with my body, the context, and the culture. I kind of laid out my points. When I got to the celebration point, it was easy to do. Matter of fact, I got so excited that I just closed my bible. The celebration part is a very important part of the African American church.
Michael Duduit: One last question. I know you’re a believer in education.
Johnnie Bradley: Yes sir.
Michael Duduit: You have gotten your own education, and you are also president of Dallas Bible Theological Institute. Why should someone who wants to pastor and preach, why should they get an education?
Johnnie Bradley: Well, first of all, education informs you of how much you don’t know. We all, whether we’re in school or not, we’re lifelong learners. We’re learning different things about cultures, ethnicities, geographical location. We’re always learning. In the pastoral world, in particular, it informs you how to successfully be a good minister, to be disciplined, to understand that you won’t minister to everyone that’s just on your educational level. It allows you to have a more feel of diversity, from someone who doesn’t have a high school diploma, to someone that may just have a high school diploma to have an undergraduate or Masters degree. It prepares you to equip the saints for the work of ministry on every level. It challenges you as a student of the Word, to understand what God is saying through the scriptures. Studying under you has been a blessing to me. It’s challenged me. It has made me realize just how much I didn’t know when it comes to preaching and understanding. I’m still growing.
Michael Duduit: Good preachers never quit learning do they?
Johnnie Bradley: No sir. No sir. Every preacher is unique in how they share God’s word and God utilizes the preachers that He calls. If the preacher will make himself available, God equips him for the work of ministry.
Michael Duduit: It’s good. It’s a good word. Thank you, Johnnie, for visiting.
Johnnie Bradley: Alright. Thank you Dr. Duduit. God bless.