The Best Books on Preaching--Part 6
Part 6—The Preacher and Preaching, Reviving the Art, Edited by Samuel T. Logan Jr., 1986, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing
The next book that I would commend to you is actually a compilation of various subjects dealing with preaching by various authors. It is The Preacher and Preaching—Reviving the Art. The book is 460 plus pages and is very provoking in some of subject matter that it chooses to deal with. As for all the books that I recommend to preachers, I trust you will understand that just because that I have recommended it does not mean that there are things that I whole-heartedly accept and approve of. All reading should be done with a spiritually discerning filter so that you can toss the bad and keep the good.
The introduction in itself is a very stimulating essay written by J. I. Packer answering the question of “why preach?” He found that when we look to Scripture itself there is a very high priority placed on preaching. It is the plan of God for the church to continue to preach until He comes back!
Packer starts with a musing as to why there are so few who really seem to believe in biblical preaching. He gives some reasons and then expands on those:
1. Because there has been so much non-preaching in American and British pulpits.
2. Topical preaching has become the general rule in North America and it has robbed the church of biblical knowledge.
3. There are low expectations of congregations to hear the Word of God.
4. The current state of spontaneity in our world battles against preaching.
5. Some concentrate too much on rigid formality dictated by denominational liturgies. (Apostolics have their own form of liturgy despite the fact that many would disagree with this statement. We have to preach the whole Bible!)
6. Media influence has created expectations of people to hear information in short bursts of speech that does not cater to well thought out (prayed out and studied out) sermons.
There are a lot of other points that Packer makes that will make you think about the real purpose of what you are doing every week in the pulpit. I found his introduction to be useful as evidenced by all the markings that are now in the margins of this book.
The book is divided up into three main sections. The Man, The Message, and The Manner are the divisions. Each division averages about four chapters. As usual, I found myself very encouraged toward personal holiness and spiritual discipline when I read through the sections on The Man.
Joel Nederhood writes about the call that every preacher must have in his life. He spends some time with the aspect of false calls to the ministry. Every minister has to be called by God. It cannot be a career choice and just some whim that a man decides that he wants to do with his life. He writes about the importance of having a right attitude of heart and how that there are certain tests that can come from evaluating the attitude. They are as follow:
1. Self-discipline, not just in academics, but in all of life, from prayer and Bible study to proper habits of rest and exercise.
2. Self-sacrifice, a genuine willingness to endure hardship in the terms of finances, peer esteem, physical comfort for the cause of Christ demands it.
3. Self-giving, not only to the powerful and wealthy, but also to the weak, the poor, to any who are needy in any way—an actual willingness to wash the feet of others.
4. Self-control, a sense of the Spirit’s sanctifying work in one’s life, an awareness that Christ alone is one’s Master.
Erroll Hulse writes about the preacher and piety. You have to love those old words that engender a sense of personal holiness! Piety, according to Hulse, is prayer at God’s throne, study of His Word in His presence, and the sustaining of the life of God in our souls, which in turn affects all our manner of living. He affirms that it must be an absolute necessity in the life of every preacher. We can read the souls of men according to the words that they speak. When my conversation is chiefly concerned with issues of worldliness over that of godliness, it won’t be too long before there is a waning of personal anointing and power. Hulse notes some reasons that piety has its breakdowns:
- Breakdown due to a lack of self-denial.
- Breakdown due to a state of nervous tension. He defines this as the often rigorous demands of dealing with crisis in the lives of people and the church.
- Breakdown due to moral failure.
- Breakdown due to pride and selfish ambition.
- Breakdown caused by a deviation from the truth.
He notes that the love of Christ is what keeps us from this area of personal piety being eroded.
James Montgomery Boice takes on the task of writing about the preacher and the importance of scholarship. I found myself very encouraged to give my mind to the Lord by reading Boice’s chapter on scholarship. We ought to approach the Scriptures as a researcher would approach his material and methods in finding a cure of cancer. What if we were to spend the time, tenacity, and talent understanding Scripture like the researchers are working toward a cure for cancer as they are at M. D. Anderson right this very second???? This preaching is serious business and churches can rise and fall with the pulpit!
James Montgomery Boice—Under the section “Never Stop Learning”—The ministry should not only be an educated ministry. It should be educable and self-educating. If it is, the preacher will continue to be fresh, alive, and interesting. If it is not, his material will soon run out and the sermons will become repetitious and boring. . . In what areas should the minister be sure to continue learning? The first and obvious area is the Bible itself. The preacher’s life should be one long love affair with this book. He should master portions of it in exquisite detail and all of it in its general outlines. Moreover, his knowledge of the book should grow until the Bible becomes more precious to him than life itself. This is one of the primary reasons to preach expositorially, working through books of the Bible chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph, and sometimes even verse by verse or word by word in the weekly preaching.
Lastly, R. C. Sproul spends time addressing the complete man in the pulpit.
In the section, The Message, there are more technical aspects to the aspect of preaching. Samuel T. Logan Jr. spends time helping a preacher to look at the range of Scripture and subjects that he ought to address. A very useful chapter by Edmund Clowney encourages the preacher to make sure that Jesus Christ comes out of every passage that we preach. One of the great treasures in my opinion is discovered when we look to the Old Testament types and pull out New Testament applications to be lived out. This is what Clowney is hitting at. However, one must be careful that he does not stretch the type of create some aberrant strain of doctrine.
There are following sections of exegesis, hermeneutics, systematic theology, structure, application and illustrations that also make up this particular section. All of those things are useful tools to assist the preacher in presenting the Gospel. One element of caution in reading these kinds of books is this; don’t let the process become so complicated that the sermon gets so detailed that only information is being relayed to the hearer. Preaching must be theology on fire! That means passion, conviction, and energy is going to flow out of the sermon.
The last section is called The Manner. Much in this section is given to the importance of preaching the Word and then finding the place of prayer to help the man become a powerful preacher. Geoffrey Thomas explores this when he writes on the power of the Word, faith, and prayer. If you are pastor, you will find the section on Pastoral Preaching by J. Peter Vosteen to be very helpful. It helps you to begin to see the congregation through the lens of suffering, calamity, pressure and stress that a church has to contend with. This is one area that perhaps bi-vocational men have over those who are solely devoted to the pastoral role as a full-time position. Every pastor needs to understand that there is a world out there that laymen have to contend with every day. If we are not careful we can get immune in our “sanctified” circle that we lose the touch with the real world where people are rowdy sinners and have no appetite or inclination toward God.
This is another book that I commend to you as being among the best of books on preaching.
More to come. . .
Stay tuned & thanks for reading. . .