A Musing about Fred Craddock (sort of) 10/19/2022
Do you know the name Fred Craddock?
The late Rev. Dr. Fred Brenning Craddock, Jr. was Bandy Distinguished Professor of Preaching and New Testament Emeritus in the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. He was an ordained minister of the Disciples of Christ Church from rural Tennessee. A pastor, scholar, preacher, and author Craddock was often named to lists of the most influential preachers in the 20th Century.
Dr. Craddock was the founding pastor of Cherry Log Christian Church in Cherry Log, Georgia, and the director of the Craddock Center, a program for serving the needs of people in Southern Appalachia. The Craddock Center is active to this day doing work of mission for children and families in need and the Cherry Log Church remains a vibrant worshiping community.
Craddock was a preacher in high demand, and he traveled the world filling pulpits. He also was a sought-after scholar who visited numerous universities and seminaries around the globe as a guest lecturer.
To be frank discovering someone who is not only a distinguished scholar, but an illustrious preacher, and then also well-loved pastor is a unique find. Sort of like coming upon a 4-leaf clover in the desert!
One of Craddock’s most notable contributions to the field of homiletics (a fancy term for preaching) was his encouraging preachers to move from deductive to inductive sermons.
CNN described his methods with these words when they remembered his life upon his passing in 2015.
“Craddock elevated preaching to an art. He was often called a preaching genius. Rather than deliver a sermon like a lecture – an intro, three main points and a conclusion – he developed an “inductive” conversational style of preaching.
His sermons unfolded like a short story – there was foreshadowing, plot twists, dialogue; language of startling beauty and surprise endings.”
One of his most famous stories is one I would like to share with you now. After reading the story I will have no commentary. This was another of the traditions of Fred Craddock. His sermons often just ended. There would be no final point or conclusion. The listener (or in this case the reader) would be left to draw their own conclusions.
So, in the Craddock tradition let me simply share this story about an encounter Craddock once had while on vacation.
After ordering breakfast at a local restaurant, the couple waited for their meal, hoping to enjoy a few private moments together. When they noticed a distinguished-looking, white-haired gentleman moving from table to table, visiting with the guests, the professor leaned over and whispered to his wife, “We came here to get away from the crowds. I hope he doesn’t come over.” But sure enough, the man soon stopped at their table.
“Where are you folks from?” he asked in a friendly voice.
“Oklahoma,” they answered.
“Great to have you here in Tennessee,” the stranger said. “What do you do for a living?”
“I teach at a seminary,” he replied.
“Oh, so you teach preachers how to preach, do you? Well, I’ve got a really great story for you.” And with that, the gentleman pulled up a chair and sat down.
At that point, the professor silently groaned and thought to himself, “Great. Just what I need . . . another preacher story!”
Pointing out a window, the man continued. “See that mountain over there? Not far from the base of that mountain an unwed mother gave birth to a son. At age six, the mother had such a difficult time, she placed the boy in an orphanage. He had a hard life in his early years because just about every place he went, people asked the same question: ’Young man, who’s your daddy?’ At school, the boy often hid from his fellow students during recess, and almost always sat alone while having lunch. Because ‘the question’ caused so much pain, he avoided going into local shops. Although he attended church regularly, he always arrived late and stepped out early. When he was about 12 years old, a new minister at his church gave the sermon. The benediction happened so fast that the boy got caught in the aisle and had to walk out with everyone else. When he reached the exit, the new minister, not knowing anything about the young man, put his hand on his shoulder and asked, ‘Son, who is your daddy?’
“When some members of the congregation heard the question, they became deathly quiet, knowing that the young man was embarrassed. By the sheepish looks on the faces of those within earshot, the minister realized his mistake and, using discernment that only the Holy Spirit could provide, quickly recovered…‘Wait a minute! I see the family resemblance. You are a child of God.’ With that, he placed his hand on the shoulder of the young man and said, ‘Boy, you’ve got a great inheritance. Go and claim it.’
“That young man was never the same again,” the stranger continued. Whenever anybody asked him, ‘Who’s your daddy,’ he’d answer, ‘I’m a Child of God.’ Isn’t that a great story?”
The professor, by then genuinely interested, responded, “It really is!”
As the older man walked away, he remarked, “You know, if that new preacher hadn’t told me that I was one of God’s children, I probably never would have amounted to anything!”
The professor, deeply moved by the experience, called his waitress over and asked, “Do you know who that man is?”
The waitress smiled. “Everybody around here knows that man. He lives just down the road. That’s Ben Hooper, the former governor of Tennessee!”
Wishing you a blessed week.