The preacher must make sure the explanation of the text drives the sermon…The text itself must maintain priority…the mandate for ministry is to preach the Word. No minister fails who faithfully explains the text of Scripture. He is at that moment God’s messenger, and God maintains the responsibility for changing the lives of the hearers.
Archives For preaching
Meyer, Jason C., Preaching: A Biblical Theology. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013. 368 pp. $22.99.
In Preaching: A Biblical Theology, Jason C. Meyer—pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church and associate professor of New Testament at Bethlehem College and Seminary—provides a unique contribution to the subject of preaching. Rather than focusing on issues such as sermon development or delivery, Meyer traces the theme of the ministry of the word—stewarding the word and heralding the word—through the Biblical narrative in order to provide a foundation upon which to build his discussion of expository preaching.
Meyer describes that the impetus to engage in this study occurred while teaching a course on preaching at Bethlehem College as he discovered that his students did not know what preaching was, “and so they had an even less clear grasp on how to do it” (313). Meyer began to ask questions himself: “Did I really know what preaching is—well enough to define it, explain it, and defend it from Scripture?” (314). In search of answers to these questions, Meyer discovered a gaping hole in contemporary discussions on the subject of preaching, and this book resulted from his study. Rather than approaching the Bible with the intent of defending a model of preaching, Meyer sought to allow God’s word to provide the method and manner of preaching.
The position presented in the book is that “the ministry of the word in Scripture is stewarding and heralding God’s word in such a way that people encounter God through his word” (21). This three-part thesis—receiving/stewarding God’s word, heralding God’s word, and responding to God’s word—is then traced from Adam to the Apocalypse through ten stewardship paradigms (70). Meyer argues that “knowing these stewards will strengthen our own stewardship today” (71).
Furthermore, these paradigms provide a backdrop for Meyer’s contemporary discussion. He presents expository preaching as the best method of stewarding and heralding God’s word in the present context, though he acknowledges the difficulties associate with such a position. Providing a Biblical definition of expository preaching is tenuous, because “the Bible never directly defines expository preaching,” in fact, “it never explicitly uses that phrase” (237). Even more disconcerting is the “question of whether the Bible contains any examples of expositional preaching” (270).
Such difficulties may appear overwhelming, but Meyer’s background study provides the necessary corrective-lens through which the definition of expository preaching is made clear. In the same manner that the three phases—the stewarding phase, the heralding phase, and the response phase—fit the context of Scripture, they also provide the construct for contemporary discussion, albeit with two points of distinction. God’s revelation is complete in written form and is no longer being added to by God’s spoken word. The canon is complete and closed. Secondly, Meyer notes rightly that while Scripture is inspired and inerrant, “our interpretations of Scripture are not” (238).
With these two caveats in place, Meyer posits that, “the phrase expository preaching is a way of expressing the vital connection between the terms stewarding and heralding” (239). He explains that while heralding describes the manner of delivery, stewarding emphasizes the care with which the preacher approaches his task in order to communicate accurately the very words of God. Meyer demonstrates that the over-arching Biblical witness concerning the manner in which one receives and proclaims God’s word testifies in support of expository preaching, even if it never does so by name. Modern exposition of the Biblical text, then, is the culmination of Meyer’s study.
Meyer rightly discerns a vacuum in the vast array of books written on the subject of preaching. His concern is that most books, “focus narrowly on specific words for ‘preaching’ instead of the wider conceptual category to which preaching belongs: the ministry of the word” (316). Such a narrow focus reveals an inadequate appreciation for—and understanding of—the breadth and width of the Biblical text. One cannot simply defend his own method of proclaiming the word of God with an insufficient understanding of what God’s word says about the task of proclamation. Meyer provides the Biblical theological study necessary to support expositional preaching.
His emphasis on “the herald,” and “heralding” the word of God is helpful in light of other preaching images.  The image of the herald highlights the borrowed authority of the preacher, for, “the herald’s authority is completely derived and is legitimate only to the degree that he faithfully represents the one who sent him” (23). The herald has no authority other than that which is given him by the king and that authority is predicated upon the accuracy and faithfulness with which he proclaims the king’s message. The herald, “has no authority to modify the message or insert his own opinions as if they represent the revealed will of the sender” (24). The herald’s responsibility is not to persuade or convince, but rather to proclaim the message faithfully and accurately. This Biblical portrait should force the one who would proclaim the word to God to reassess his purpose, design, and goals for preaching.
In light of his emphasis upon the herald, readers familiar with various models of expository preaching may long for Meyer to have been more specific in his definition thereof. He provides a general overview of the major books on the subject of preaching, and demonstrates his appreciation for the works of Haddon Robinson, Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix, John MacArthur, Sidney Greidanus, and Bryan Chapell. Yet, he fails to distinguish between the various levels of expository models of preaching.
There is significant variance among those who write on expository preaching. For some, such as Robinson, this simply means deriving one’s main point from the text before discerning which method to communicate the main point. They might argue that the form of the sermon matters little in the exposition of God’s word. Others maintain that the shape of the text should govern the shape of the sermon—the manner in which God communicated his word should govern the manner in which the preacher communicates God’s word.  Meyer’s heraldic emphasis appears to place him comfortably in the camp of the latter rather than the former, yet he does not make this distinction at any point. However, it must be noted that Meyer’s book is not intended to serve as a homiletical handbook or preaching manual and as such, the author may have determined such clarification to be beyond the scope of this work.
Preaching is not intended to walk the reader through the task of sermon preparation, nor is it written in such a way as to strengthen the reader’s sermon delivery. Meyer approaches the task of preaching with the reverence and gravity that the subject matter deserves and establishes a Biblical theological call for expository preaching; such preaching stands in the line of those who have been entrusted with God’s word and who “take that word and faithfully serve others with it” (21).
Jason C. Meyer, Preaching: A Biblical Theology
I received this book free from the publisher through the Crossway book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
One Year to Better Preaching: 52 Exercises to Hone Your Skills. By Daniel Overdorf. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2013. 319 pages. Paperback, $17.99.
The most public aspect of any pastor’s ministry is his preaching. Ask the typical Sunday morning attendee to identify the primary task of the pastor and he will inevitably direct your attention to the sermon. However many hospital visits, committee meetings, potlucks and Bible studies the pastor attends during the week, the sermon stands as the centerpiece of his pastoral duty.
Biblically, the pastor’s task is defined along similar lines. The needs of those in the community of faith should not distract the pastor from his most important responsibility. The apostles directed the church to select deacons for the specific purpose that their labors would free the apostles to focus on the most important tasks set before them – those of prayer and the ministry of the Word.
Yet, once the minister has completed his seminary training, this task often receives very little attention. It becomes something the preacher does, but it is rarely a task that the pastor works on developing further. He may attend a conference or an occasional training event, but little can be accomplished to improve his preaching on a sustained, regular basis.
With One Year to Better Preaching, Daniel Overdorf hopes to fill that gap by equipping pastors with a resource to improve their preaching. The book is a collection of 52 exercises intended upon developing and honing this important task. The exercises address eight general categories skills: prayer, Bible interpretation, understanding listeners, sermon construction, illustration and application, word crafting, the preaching event, and sermon evaluation.
Ideally, the reader would select an exercise each week in order to sharpen their preaching skill. However, the chapters are divided and classified in such a way that the preacher has the option of selecting only the exercises that correspond with his particular weaknesses.
The exercises themselves cover a wide-swath of emphases, some of which not every pastor will take upon himself. One chapter recommends that the preacher recommend that the congregation text during the sermon. Another exercise recommends utilizing a different sermon form for the sake of variety. Yet another still suggests using dialogue in the sermon, either through interview or panel discussion.
Frankly, some of the suggestions would make this reviewer uncomfortable and would undermine his understanding of the definition of preaching. Dialogue and interview may suffice for illustration, but one must be careful to define preaching as the communication of God’s Word, and not the experiences and wit and wisdom of one not bound to the text. Preaching involves proclamation, or else it ceases to be preaching.
The sum of the exercises say little about preaching and instead focus on sermon preparation and delivery. This is where the book shines and will serve pastors in the future. And these exercises give me adequate reason to recommend it.
I received this book free from the publisher through the Kregel book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Sermon text Colossians 2:8-10
Millar, Gary and Phil Campbell. Saving Eutychus: How to Preach God’s Word and Keep People Awake. Kingsford NSW, Austrailia: Matthias Media 2013. 176 pp. $16.99.
In Saving Eutychus, authors Gary Millar (Principal of Queensland Theological College) and Phil Campbell (Preaching Professor of Queensland Theological College) offer a brief, yet helpful work on preaching. Central to their book is the assertion that a preacher need not choose between biblical fidelity and preaching in an engaging manner. Rather, they believe there is a manner of preaching that is both faithful to the text of Scripture, and interesting enough to keep people awake long enough to hear it. They are not merely lecturers, but practitioners as well, who understand that, “our challenge is not just to avoid being deadly dull. Our challenge is to be faithful, accurate, and clear as we cut to the heart of the biblical text and apply what God is really saying in a way that cuts to the hearts of people who are really listening” (14).
Millar and Campbell are committed to expositional preaching, or at least their own version thereof. Millar writes, “the key to preaching… is to make the message of the text obvious” (29). Taking a cue from Haddon Robinson’s Biblical Preaching, their preaching centers on the identification and explanation on a single main idea communicated in the text. In order to discern this main idea, the authors emphasize the vast importance of avoiding the temptation to moralize the text and, “lose sight of the gospel of what Jesus has done and replace it with a whole lot of concrete and persuasive and guilt-inducing applications about what we need to do” (70). Crucial to this endeavor is a healthy understanding of the overarching biblical narrative and a robust biblical theology. Only by understanding the overall tapestry of Scripture, can preachers maintain the vital distinction between what is being required of us and what has been accomplished in Christ.
Both authors utilize a sermon script rather than detailed preaching outline, and suggest that this method provides the best means to communicate their message deliberately and with absolute clarity. This method prevents both the tendency of some who use no notes, or merely an outline, to wander aimlessly during the sermon, as well as the equally dangerous propensity to read a script woodenly. In fact, the authors recommend, what they call natural scripting, that is, “writing exactly the words you’d naturally speak, exactly the way you’d naturally say them” (45).
This little book has much to offer pastors who find themselves struggling to preach sermons that visibly affect their congregations. The importance of understanding the biblical narrative, and where each passage fits therein, is crucial to faithful exposit God’s Word. However, it is in their exposition that they fall short.
The authors recommend preaching a central idea derived from the preaching text. The danger of such preaching is that it diminishes the impact of the actual language and words breathed out by the Holy Spirit in the text of Scripture. This danger is evidenced in both of the authors’ sample sermons. Each sermon had one big idea, yet ignored the text itself in order to preach the “gist” of the text.
Such preaching is not unique to these authors, but rather is indicative of a generation of expository preaching that ultimately fails to deliver the text. This method is careful to emphasize the importance of each word used by the preacher to communicate his message to the congregation, yet fails to recognize the infinitely greater importance of the exact words used by the Holy Spirit to communicate to the readers of Holy Scripture. Such a failure is unacceptable for those entrusted to faithfully communicate God’s Word.
Saving Eutychus is a useful little book for preachers looking for something to assist them in faithfully communicating God’s Word in a manner that affects the hearts of their hearers. Though weak in terms of defining the preaching task, its strength lies in the method used by the authors to communicate the message.
Gary Millar and Phil Campbell, Saving Eutychus: How to Preach God’s Word and Keep People Awake
I received this book free from the publisher through the Cross Focused Reviews book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
“My endeavor is to bring out of Scripture what is there, and not to thrust in what I think might be there. I have a great jealousy on this head; never to speak more or less than I believe to be the mind of the Spirit in the passage I am expounding.”
Harvey, John D. Interpreting the Pauline Letters: An Exegetical Handbook. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2013. 211 pp. $22.99
John D. Harvey’s Interpreting the Pauline Letters: An Exegetical Handbook is the first in a series of books slated to be published for the specific purpose of assisting students of the New Testament in their ability to understand and communicate the text of Scripture. In this volume, Harvey (Professor of New Testament and Dean of the Seminary and School of Ministry at Columbia International University) sets the pace for series by focusing on the Pauline letters: Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.
The book is written in such a manner as to provide quick helps and summaries of major points of emphasis in the interpretation process. Harvey relates Paul’s letters to the various genre of Scripture, as well as other letters written during the first-century. While Paul’s letters find some similarity at points with familial letters, his is a distinct structure. Harvey then discusses the historical background of Paul’s letters by attempting to reconstruct a timeline of the events of Paul’s life based primarily upon his letters and only then using the book of Acts to clarify and fill in gaps in what can be discerned. Harvey discusses the overarching theology of Paul’s letters by looking at Paul’s use of two spheres: “in Adam” and “in Christ.” He provides a brief primer on textual criticism and translation, an introductory hermeneutic method, ideas on preaching methods, and two examples of the entire process from text to sermon.
The strength of this handbook lies in its ability to simplify concepts that often require extensive study and research. His chapter on genre, while its impact upon final interpretation may be debated, synthesizes the research well and provides the reader with a quick understanding of the nature of Paul’s genre. Likewise, the historical background work helps the reader gain a better understanding of the discussions surrounding the timeline of Paul’s life, missionary travels, and imprisonment – including the impact of such events upon his writing.
Harvey’s chapter on sermon preparation and delivery relies on texts that most will not find surprising – Robinson’s Biblical Preaching, Chapell’s Christ-Centered Preaching, and Hamilton’s Homiletical Handbook. One might also note Harvey’s repeated use of Andy Stanley’s Communicating for a Change. While Stanley is a popular speaker and author, his books are not universally considered of the same substance and weight as those previously mentioned, and differs significantly in terms of sermon shape. Stanley’s inclusion into this list of expositors simply appears out-of-place.
Harvey’s book will serve those in search of an accessible tool to assist them in the task of sermon preparation. His summaries provide a cursory understanding of the material needed for such a task, but also provide recommended (conservative, evangelical) texts for further study as one sees fit. Anyone striving to faithfully communicate God’s Word as penned by Paul the Apostle will find assistance in this little volume.
John D. Harvey, Interpreting the Pauline Letters: An Exegetical Handbook
I received this book free from the publisher through the Kregel Academic book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
This summer, I’m participating in Turbo Hebrew at Southwestern Seminary – that is, I am taking the first two semesters of Biblical Hebrew in the months of June and July. The danger in cramming such a labor-intensive course into the summer (apart from simply bombing-out) is that I might finish the course with no clear understanding of the Biblical language. Another very real danger is that in putting the extensive time in the study of Hebrew, I might lapse in my Greek studies.
So this summer, I decided to take a risk and preach through the book of Colossians (translating each verse individually) while taking the Hebrew course. This, I hope, will enable me to maintain my Greek proficiency (which is in and of itself an overstatement) while studying Hebrew.
With that having been written, I thought I would share the five primary resources, apart from my Greek New Testament, that I’m utilizing as I work through the book of Colossians.
- Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: Colossians and Philemon
- NICNT: Ephesians and Colossians
- Word Biblical Commentary: Colossians, Philemon
- NAC: Philippians, Colossians, Philemon
- Colossians and Philemon for Pastors
What are your top books on Colossians? What one book am I missing out on?
Sermon text Colossians 1:15-23
Lloyd-Jones, Martyn. Setting Our Affections Upon Glory. Wheaton, IL.: Crossway, 2013. 173 pp. $15.99.
In Setting Our Affections Upon Glory, nine sermons from Lloyd-Jones’ final trip to the United States are published for the first time, demonstrating to a new generation the homiletic mastery of “The Doctor.” These sermons, delivered at the Pensacola Theological Institute in 1969, are saturated with exegetical insight and seasoned with pastoral wisdom.
In expositional form, these sermons address topics related specifically to the gospel and the church that are just as cogent in our day as in his. He reminds his hearers that the ultimate test of faith is not our response to times of plenty, but in times of loss. He argues that the church generally must be built upon doctrine, because otherwise, “it is not Christian fellowship. It is carnal fellowship. It is merely human fellowship” (56). In fact, he states that “there is nothing more dangerous to the true life of the church than reversing this order and putting fellowship before doctrine” (58).
This little book is a wonderful addition to any collection of sermons. It serves as a fantastic introduction into the masterful preaching of Lloyd-Jones, but more importantly has the capability of transforming the way we think about the gospel and the church.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Setting Our Affections Upon Glory
I received this book free from the publisher through Crossway book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.