Preaching as self-categorisation: analysing a Beyers Naudé-sermon by making use of Social Identity Theory

  • Ian Nell
Keywords: Leadership, preaching, social identity, self-categorization, Beyers Naudé


“Obedience to God” was the title of a sermon delivered by dr Beyers Naudé on Sunday 22 September 1963 at Aasvoëlkop Congregation of the Dutch Reformed Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Scripture reading was taken from Acts 5:29 which reads: “We must obey God rather than men.” On that same occasion he announced his decision to accept the directorship of the Christian Institute of Southern Africa. These events introduced a new phase in the narrative of Naudé and his relationship with his people. In this article notions like self-categorisation as part of Social Identity Theory were used as heuristic tools to explore in what ways this sermon-event played a significant role in a new phase of self-definition in Naudé’s life story. At the same time the role of preaching as a process of social identity formation (self-categorisation) comes under the spotlight. In conclusion some pointers are given for reflection on the reformation of preaching within the context of the Twenty First Century by making use of the Confession of Belhar as a framework for interpretation.