You can’t leaf through a magazine or wander along a row of shops these days without having the virtues of a supposedly ‘artisan’ way of doing things shoved in front of you. Our local bakery sells ‘artisan bread’, and I’ve seen artisan furniture, soaps, sinks, chocolate, almost anything you can think of. If you want it to be popular, apparently, you make it artisan-style.

So here’s a church growth tip: some historians of the 17th century refer to a certain style of preaching that emerged during the English Civil War as ‘artisan preaching’, and there’s information available about how to do it.

There is a slight complication, though: artisans weren’t admired in the 17th Century the way they are now that they no longer exist, and most of the descriptions of their preaching come from those who didn’t think tinkers, tailors, weavers and watchmakers ought to be preaching at all, and made their contempt of it plain. So you often have to read between the lines in order to get the hang of the thing, but the following description of a tailor preaching in 1647 ought to give you the idea.

He imitateth an austere garbe, looketh passing grave and sowrely, and is as melancholike as a leane Judge… he giveth a Psalme which his congregation chant with harsh voices and small devotion… [he] turneth to some text of Scripture… and with his sheares he so clippeth it, that it cannot be esteemed anything except a gallimaufrey of shreds and sweepings.

Not easy isolating the artisanal elements, I know, but don’t be put off—John Bunyan was one of these artisans, starting his career as a brazier, but eventually drew huge crowds in the big city, and sold books by the thousand. A 17th Century Tim Keller. Come to think of it, Bunyan’s own description of his preaching might be more useful, short as it is: ‘I preached what I felt, what I smartingly did feel’. ‘Smartingly’, according to the OED, means painfully: Bunyan preached what had been painful to admit about himself, the truth that had brought him to his knees in repentance. It might even be artisanal enough to do no more than that.

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