Book Recommendation—Reformed Preaching by Joel Beeke
This blog is a salute to a pastor that I have yet to meet face-to-face. Several months ago, I was contacted thru Twitter by Pastor Tony Mansinho who is serving his church, Calvary Apostolic Church, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I am unsure as to how that he found me but he has been an incredible blessing to me because at this point, he has sent me nearly 200 books. The books that he has sent to me are not your pop Christianity sorts of books that litter the bookshelves of most chain bookstores. Rather he has sent me some of the richest volumes from the New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT) and OldTestament (NICOT), IVP commentaries, a host of books on preaching, hermeneutics, and even several specialty study Bibles. Because I love books on preaching, I have benefited tremendously from that genre of books he has sent to me. I thought that I should do a book review/recommendation on one of the many he has sent. Obviously as he and I both would affirm that everything we read needs to be done so carefully and with discernment.
This book is one written by Joel Beeke. Joel Beeke is a familiar author with me as I have enjoyed his book on spiritual warfare, backsliding, history of the Puritans, and theology of the Puritans. Beeke is the president of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and the pastor of Heritage Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids. The book that he has recently written is Reformed Preaching and is part historical and part instructional. The book is so good that I even found the beginning written endorsements to be good.
- Ignorance of God; want of nearness with Him, and taking up little of God in reading, meditating, and speaking of him.
- In going about duties, least careful of those things which are most remote from the eyes of men. Seldom in secret prayer with God, except to fit for public performances; and even that much neglected, or gone about very superficially.
- Not given to reflect upon our own ways, nor suffering conviction to have a thorough work upon us. . . carelessness in self-searching; which makes much unacquaintedness with ourselves, and estrangedness from God.
Mark G. Johnston—Faithful preaching is intimately bound up with the heartbeat of faithful Christian living. The proof of this is seen throughout the history of the church. Wills, affections, lives, churches, and entire communities have been transformed when the proclamation of God’s Word has reached beyond the mind to the heart. . .
Maurice Roberts—The ethos of this soul-satisfying book on preaching is not ‘fast forward to the new and fanciful’ but ‘turn your affections back to the solid theological foundations of the past.’ Too much modern-day preaching aims to attract the undiscerning hearer with exciting and flossy novelties. But godly church members hunger and thirst not for shallow novelty, but for real, solid, biblical preaching and genuine food for the soul. . .
Michael P. V. Barrett—A preacher who does not practice what he preaches is a hypocrite; a preacher who does not preach what he himself has practiced is a mere theorist. A good preacher gives to others the overflow of what he himself has taken in from God’s Word. . . Preaching is more than simply a verbal book report: it is a God-ordained means of bringing God’s truth to bear on the hearts and in the experience of the hearers. Beeke effectively underscores this powerful function of preaching both with models from past preachers and clear instructions for modern preachers.
These are followed by an excellent preface by Sinclair Ferguson. Beeke then gets into what he calls “experiential” preaching which basically is the preaching that will impact the heart and the emotions as it uses the knowledge of the Scriptures to move the hearer toward Christian growth. Here are the following reasons in my opinion as to why you need to read this book.
1. It makes me think about the task of preaching very seriously.
An elder minister used to tell me that if you purchased a book and got one sentence or one paragraph or one chapter of use from it, it was worth the price of the book. This book has the unique character of having that kind of use on every page. There is motivation from looking at the descriptions of the content of sermons from past preachers especially as Beeke helps us to see exactly the number of messages they preached from particular books in the Bible. Part 3 deals with taking the work of the old and making it work in the new. Balance, application, effectiveness, and preaching to the heart are all dealt with. If you use a fountain pen and a journal, you will find that Part 3 will load it up.
2. It makes me think about the matter of holy living very seriously.
Holiness of life has fallen on hard times in too many places. Social media has provided great revelation of how too many ministers are literally choking on worldliness. Worldliness and carnality are lost subjects in most modern pulpits today and the church has a thousand maladies because of it. One provoking matter that Beeke runs across is the thought that too many preachers are unconverted. While he is looking under the big tent of western Christianity, I am wondering if we may not have unconverted preachers who are in our camp as well. If there is a disparity between the character of a man who is called to preach and the content of his message, it will have an ominous impact on the life of the church. Beeke provides a quote that I found by John Owen years ago from a sermon, “Eschol: A Cluster of the Fruit of Canaan,” in the multi-volume set that I have. It is provokingly convicting: If a man teach uprightly and walked crookedly, more will fall down in the night of his life than be built in the day of his doctrine.
Holiness in my life is important and crucial if I am to be effective in my calling. Holiness comes to life when we have peace with God which leads to a corresponding outgrowth of fruit in life. Beeke rightly contends that as we work our way through preaching the Bible that because of the intense exposure to the Scriptures, we will have a change of mind and action.
3. It makes me think about the value of having a personal library and the necessity of the discipline of reading and study.
J. T. Pugh told me in the fall/winter of 1996 that if I was going to be a great preacher that I would have to be a great reader. Let me define great preacher not as one who is on the popular preaching circuit but as one who has great authority in the Scriptures and you can feel what he is preaching instead of just merely hearing. The private prayers and studies of the preacher goes a long way toward making him a force in the pulpit. Beeke does an absolutely excellent job with his footnotes and with the extensive bibliography. In fact, the footnotes/bibliography can go a long way in helping to create a variety of wish lists for future book purchases. Beeke also briefly describes a helpful reading plan that calls for one to read from a particular author for a year. He notes that soaking in what an author has written you will come to an understanding of his theology. The sermons of past preachers also help us to improve our own preaching as well. He says very well that you may read a lot of books that might win short-term popularity contests but they have little to contribute when it comes to biblical substance or spiritual depth. He encourages preachers to read books about theological matters they know little about because the process will deepen our reverence for Scripture. Then you don’t have to rely on brief news articles, popular marketing commercials, movies and television shows, or trite cultural matters to serve as sermon fodder. The mind that is not being challenged is like a body that is not being exercised; the result is stagnation and deterioration.
I conclude with what Beeke shares from Horatius Bonar’s book Words to Winners of Souls. He wrote that in 1651 the ministers of Scotland gathered to confess their sins that covered thirteen categories. I won’t give all of these but consider three of them and give an assessment of your own life:
This book which was a fine gift to me from Pastor Tony Mansinho will be worth your time and money. It will be a helpful book to mull over, pray over, and be convicted over for our lack of seriousness about preaching, holiness, and study.
Thanks for reading. . .