What's a Preacher to Do?

In response to Covid-19, the Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence is producing a series of brief videos: "What's a Preacher to Do?

In each short video Dr. O. Wesley Allen and Dr. Alyce McKenzie interview scholars with different specialties to talk about preaching during the Coronavirus crisis. They ask one question:

What is a key insight from your area of expertise that would be helpful to preachers in preparing sermons in these difficult times?

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Episode 14 

Interview with the Rev. Dr. Henry L. Masters, Sr. a retired UMC Pastor and retired adjunct faculty at Texas Christian University (TCU) and Perkins School of Theology at SMU. 

Rev. Masters contemplates the question: what does Christianity have to say to people with their backs against the wall? He advocates staying grounded in the liturgical message and preaching with more compassion. 

Dr. Masters is a native of Waco, Texas. He is a graduate of A.J. Moore High School, Paul Quinn College (B.A.), Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University-SMU (Master of Theology and Doctor of Ministry), Huston-Tilloston University (Doctor of Divinity). His first ministerial appointment began in the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church with the Metropolitan Board of Mission working with an ecumenical staff of Urban Community Organizers. He has served churches in Valley Mills, Texas (student appointment) Fort Worth, Dallas, Los Angeles and one term as District Superintendent. Additionally Dr. Masters has also served as Adjunct faculty at Texas Christian University (TCU) and Perkins School of Theology at SMU.

Dr. Masters in an avid reader and author of Simon of Cyrene, the only African eyewitness to the crucifixion of Jesus, (Inkwater Press 2004) and Makin’ Room in the Inn, Christmas Hospitality through an African American Experiences (Abingdon 2010), co-authored with his wife Rev. S. Dianna Masters. He is also publisher of a By Faith Magazine, an initiative to provide a communication vehicle for the Black Churches in the United Methodist Church (UMC).


Episode 13

Interview with the Rev. Dr. Thomas G. Long, the Bandy Professor Emeritus of Preaching at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Dr. Tom Long emphasizes hope based in the power of God. He encourages looking for glimmers of hope shining through in our present circumstances and contrasts the false promises of optimism with the Christian faith which finds hope even in the darkest places.


Thomas Grier Long (born in 1946) is the Bandy Professor Emeritus of Preaching at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He received his BA degree from Erskine College in 1968, the Master of Divinity from Erskine Theological Seminary in 1971, and the Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1980.

Dr. Long's field is in homiletics and is a strong proponent of the two pillars of preaching: strong exegetical work held alongside with strong presentation skills. Preaching magazine named his The Witness of Preaching one of the 25 most influential books on preaching in the past 25 years. A standard textbook in seminary and undergraduate preaching courses, the book advocates exegetical method seeking to discern a claim from the text to provide clarity of focus and function in sermons.


Episode 12

Interview with the Rev. Dr. Valerie Bridgeman, Dean & Vice President of Academic Affairs, Associate Professor of Homiletics & Hebrew Bible at Methodist Theological School in Ohio.

Rev. Bridgeman recommends that preachers focus on three things:

1. Clarity – prophetic voice that cuts through all the noise.

2. Lament – give people space for grief.

3. Hope – offer hope in the face of grief and pain. 

Episode 11

This episode features Dr. Steve Long, Cary M. Maguire University Chair of Ethics Department, Professor of Ethics, Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. 

Dr. Long’s advice is: don’t be reactionary but rather emphasize the indestructible goodness of God and trust that the Scripture has prepared and will sustain us through this time. 

Episode 10

This episode features Dr. James Kang Hoon Lee, Associate Professor of the History of Early Christianity and Director of Doctor of Ministry Program, Perkins School of Theology at SMU. 

Dr. Lee offers insights from the history of the early church and from Saint Augustin of Hippo. The early church’s ideal of an eloquent preacher was someone who could teach, delight, and sway. However, not everyone is an eloquent speaker. Therefore, Saint Augustin says that the most eloquent sermon you can give is a life well lived. 

Episode 9

This episode features Dr. Carrie La Ferle, Marriott Endowed Professor of Ethics and Culture, the Temerlin Advertising Institute at SMU.

Dr. La Ferle encourages preachers to explore the needs, wants, and values of their congregations specifically during this time of crisis in order to connect with them and to become a part of their life story.

Episode 8

This episode features Dr. Tamara Lewis, Assistant Professor of the History of Christianity Perkins School of Theology at SMU.

Dr. Lewis draws attention to the inspiring stories and biographies of our Christian predecessors who stand as examples of ministry and compassion in times of catastrophe. She shares stories of people who faced unprecedented circumstances and kept serving others, such as Cyprian the Bishop during the small pox epidemic, Martin Luther during the bubonic plague, or Bishop Richard Allen during the yellow fever. 

Episode 7

This episode features Dr. Robin Lovin, Cary M. Maguire University Professor Emeritus of Ethics, Perkins School of Theology at SMU.

Dr. Lovin talks about vocation as a calling. He presents healthcare workers, first responders, store clerks, or teachers as an example of people who understand that a job isn’t just a way to make money. It’s a way that we connect to others and to God. Vocation gives meaning to our lives. Preachers could use these times to help people appreciate their vocations. 

Episode 6

This episode features Dr. Rebekah Miles, Professor of Ethics and Practical Theology, Perkins School of Theology at SMU.

Dr. Miles encourages preachers to help people find meaning and to ask the big questions of life. She also draws attention to the need of taking care of the vulnerable and the weak. 

Episode 5

This episode features  Dr. Ted A. Campbell, Professor of Church History, Perkins School of Theology at SMU. 

Dr. Campbell looks at Christian communities with the wide lens of history and offers insights on building up congregations with deep roots. 

Episode 4

This episode features Dr. Owen Hanley Lynch, Associate Professor and Director of Honors Program and SMU-in-London Internships, Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor of Corporate Communication and Public Affairs at SMU. 

Dr. Lynch points our attention to those who are the most vulnerable in our communities and exhorts preachers to be aware of how isolating and concentrated poverty is. He also draws attention to the importance of supportive networks which the vulnerable populations depend on and which are now being disrupted. He encourages preachers to address these concerns.

Episode 3

This episode features the Reverend Dr. Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner, Professor of Pastoral Care and Pastoral Theology, Perkins School of Theology at SMU.

Dr. Stevenson-Moessner shares insights on offering pastoral care through a sermon. She advises preachers to face their own feelings in time of sermon preparation and make sure to eventually find the rock bottom of the firm foundation of faith. She acknowledges that this may not be an easy task and encourages preachers to reach out for help to their colleagues and mentors. She encourages being authentic in the pulpit. 

Episode 2

This episode features Dr. Charles M. Wood, Lehman Professor Emeritus of Christian Doctrine, Perkins School of Theology at SMU.

Dr. Wood elaborates on the doctrine of providence as an attempt to answer the question: how are we to theologically understand how is God related to what’s going on – why is God visiting this disaster upon us? 

Episode 1

The first episode features Dr. Maria Dixon Hall, Associate Professor and Director of Mustang Consulting, Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor of Corporate Communication and Public Affairs, Senior Advisor to the Provost at Southern Methodist University. 

Dr. Dixon recommends that preachers analyze the specific needs of their particular audience. She counsels against preaching as if nothing has changed and advocates for offering hope in these trying circumstances. 



Other Resources:



What can we preach in moments of crisis?


5 biblical principles when facing a crisis.