The context was a building program for an urban congregation. The beginning bore no omens of controversy. But before long, both the pastor (the author) and the congregation found themselves in a storm that threatened the church's very existence and the pastor's future in ministry.
It is common in this kind of storm that neither the preacher nor his flock will expect to hear from God. But the arresting message of this book is that it is often through the preaching itself that God speaks to the issues of conflict. It is through preaching that the issues are resolved, and neither the pastor nor the people are left unchanged.
By example and by precept this book shows how to weather a storm in the only successful way--by preaching through it under the guiding hand of a compassionate God who knows our human anguish. This is a book you cannot afford to ignore. For, as one preacher puts it, you're either "coming out of a storm, in a storm, or heading for a storm." "This book reflects and respects the experience of the black church, but its insights are for all who preach in whatever tradition they have roots. It makes one realize that both the Word and the preaching event simply transcend any differences of expression. It also discloses both a high concept of preaching and a new dimension of pastoral care. It confirms Paul's affirmation: 'The pain God is allowed to guide ends in a saving repentance never to be regretted' (2 Cor. 7:10)." - Gene E. Bartlett, Colgate Rochester Divinity School "Rarely does a person write about his pain predicament in close time proximity to the event which produced the pain and the predicament. The normal approach is to engage in such activity long after the smoke of battle has settled, when the guns are silent and cool.
"H. Beecher Hicks, Jr., has defied the norm, moved counter to custom, and dared to give a running weather report of the storm that engulfed him and his ministry for nearly five years. 'Courage' is almost too weak a word to describe his latest literary piece. 'Audacity,' informed by honesty and candor, is perhaps the better word.
"Beginning with the personal agony precipitated by the loss of his loving mother, the writer takes the reader on a nonstop journey through several storm-tossed experiences: board difficulties, attempts to muffle and muzzle the preacher, leadership challenges, false charges, character assassination, demonic assaults, the seeming absence and/or silence of ministerial colleagues, negative counsel, and a certain myopia caused by a serious attempt to view the storm on every front at one time.
"When one considers that 'stormy weather' of such magnitude developed and persisted in the midst of a mammoth building program, the fact that this preacher did not succumb to a spirit of bitter resignation or yield to the temptation to 'throw in the towel' is indicative of guidance by Transcendant Reality. Seldom do we have the opportunity to read a sermonic pilgrimage reflecting all the dialectical forces at work in a given situation. In this work they are present in plentitude. The preacher lays bare his very soul and permits us to scrutinize him as he experiences what F. Scott Fitzgerald called 'the dark night of the soul where it's always three o'clock in the morning.' And then, a sunlit morning arrives on the very wings of the storm itself, giving credence to the apostle Paul's declaration, 'Through much tribulation we enter the kingdom of God.'
Preaching Through a Storm begins on a note that borders on fatalism. Hurt, anger, pessimism, distrust--all these are actively present, and understandably so. And the existential question implicit in the storm is this: 'How does one minister to the enemies of his soul?' When a person's theological training has provided no answers, and the preacher himself describes the pastorate as 'the worst job you will ever love,' how does he cope with ineluctable crises?
"H. Beecher Hicks, Jr., after journeying to hell and back, tells us how by showing us how. You preach through the storm, knowing even as you preach that serious preaching arouses serious conflicts. Through it all he never failed to lift up his Lord.
"Ministerial heads ought to be clearer after reading such wise words of warning born out of creative and redemptive tension between the ideal and the real. In the final analysis, the One who calls us to this work, where both muck and majesty are operative, promises nothing at all except His presence." (from the Foreword by William Augustus Jones, Bethany Baptist Church, Brooklyn, New York)
H. Beecher Hicks, Jr., is Senior Minister of the
Metropolitan Baptist Church in Washington,
D.C. He has been a visiting professor at the
School of Divinity, Howard University, and a
lecturer and speaker at various conferences and
campuses in the United States.