BSK convocation speaker cautions against too much self-assuredness in preaching

Preachers and teachers should approach their tasks “with an appropriate tentativeness” and avoid being “overly confident,” a Duke University Divinity School professor and administrator told Baptist Seminary of Kentucky’s fall convocation.

In his Sept. 1 address, David Emmanuel Goatley, an associate dean and research professor of theology and Christian ministry at Duke, said proclaimers must take great care because they seek to “handle things of God” and because humans have a “propensity toward sinfulness.”

“Talking too freely and too much” should be shunned, he advised. “We are not experts in all things, but we are called to say ‘a word for the Lord’ as they say in my tradition,” said Goatley, who directs Duke’s Office of Black Church Studies.

Goatley, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Campbellsville, Kentucky, spoke to a seminary community where Black students compose more than half of the student body.  With 53 students, BSK is experiencing its largest enrollment in 15 years.

The enrollment growth is fueled by BSK’s four-year partnership with historically Black Simmons College of Kentucky in Louisville and its affiliation with the predominately Black National Baptist Convention of America, which in 2020 named BSK as its official seminary.

Students from 12 states are enrolled at BSK and can complete a fully accredited M.Div. degree online. Fall convocation, which was held virtually, followed a pattern of online worship at the seminary that began with the pandemic.

During convocation, Goatley told the story of a minister he met while traveling in India several years ago. While gathered with the minister and others in a prayer circle, Goatley noticed the Indian minister’s feet. They were “leathery, hard, tough” and bore scars from multiple wounds incurred over the years.

The sight reminded him of Romans 10:15 where Paul, quoting Isaiah 52, wrote: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” The minister’s feet had carried him to difficult places to care for vulnerable people, Goatley explained.

“Those feet knew what it meant to labor, to serve,” he said.  “And it just struck me how different it is for us. How many of us in ministry look for places to be pampered, look for places to be embraced, to be hugged, to be affirmed.”

“Beautiful feet,” Goatley insisted, “are not privileged feet.” They travel among the impoverished, the imprisoned, the homeless, the addicted, and the exploited, he emphasized.

“They carry you beyond your obsession and beyond your limitation and beyond your celebration to liberation because everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved,” Goatley said.