I was going to call this book a ‘treasure trove’ on preaching and then I noticed that’s exactly how it’s described in the opening line of blurb. Ah well. It is a treasure trove.
The Art and Craft of Biblical Preaching is a collection of over 200 articles from Leadership journal and PreachingToday.com supplemented by articles written specially for the book. I was a bit sceptical that this might mean some ephemeral content, but not so. Instead it means that, despite the book’s 700 plus pages, all the content is tightly written and to the point. It also means we’re treated to a veritable who’s who of evangelical preaching including Jay Adams, Alistair Begg, Rob Bell, Stuart Briscoe, Don Carson, Tim Keller, Gordon MacDonald, John Ortberg, Ben Patterson, John Piper, Haddon Robinson, Rick Warren, Warren Wiersbe and Dallas Willard. The authors are mostly north American, but there are contributions from John Stott, Dick Lucas and David Jackman. There’s also a CD with sermon extracts linked to specific articles in the book so you can hear examples of principles taught in the text.
I started listing chapters I particularly wanted to highlight, but after listing the first four chapters in a row I gave up
So instead here are some things I love about this
1. The range of contributors encompasses a range of styles. We go from stiff upper lip English Anglicanism to full-blooded passionate African Americans. The danger of a single author book on preaching is that we are presented with one model. But, as the nineteenth preacher Phillips Brooks famously said, preaching is truth through personality (cited on page 74). Here is a book that reflects biblical principles but which celebrates a variety of styles.
2. There is a common thread of Christ-centred, gospel-driven, grace-filled preaching. I was worried that some articles might reflect the common pragmatic approach to preaching that tends towards moralism or dispensing advice. But everywhere you turn the gospel is at the centre. As you might expect, Tim Keller’s chapter on ‘preaching morality in an amoral age’ a fine example of this (chapter 41).
3. Despite the variety of contributors, there is a big emphasis on applying the Bible to life with both sides of that process treated seriously. We preach the Bible – not human wisdom or advice or entertainment. But we also preach it to life and call for a response.
4. There are articles on the topics you would expect, often several articles: confidence in God’s word, intepreting a passage, explaining God’s word clearly, knowing your congregation, applying the truth, calling for a response. But there are also articles on topics I might not have thought to include: creating a preaching team, preaching through personal pain, using self-disclosure, preaching into a crisis and so on.
5. Warren Wiersbe talks about what he calls ‘the myth of “the great sermon”’ (76). This is the notion that we should aim to preach the sermon on this passage. His point is that, rather than preaching the greatest sermon of all time, we should preach the sermon needed for this time and this people. And also the sermon that flows from your personality, not that of your preaching heroes.
There’s too much to read from cover to cover. But it’s a great book to dip in and out of or to turn to with a particular issue in mind. Subject, author and Scripture indexes plus the chapter titles give you various routes by which you can navigate through the book. A great place to start would be to read all the contributions of Haddon Robinson.
Here’s a summary of the contents …
Part 1: The High Call of Preaching:
How can I be faithful to what God intends preaching to be and do?
Part 2: The Spiritual Life of the Preacher:
How should I attend to my soul so that I am spiritually prepared to preach?
Part 3: Considering Hearers:
How should my approach change depending on who is listening?
Part 4: Interpretation and Application:
How do I grasp the correct meaning of Scripture and show its relevance to my unique hearers?
Part 5: Structure:
How do I generate, organize, and support ideas in a way that is clear?
Part 6: Style:
How can I use my personal strengths and various message types to their full biblical potential?
Part 7: Stories and Illustrations:
How do I find examples that are illuminating, credible, and compelling?
Part 8: Preparation:
How should I invest my limited study time so that I am ready to preach?
Part 9: Delivery:
How do I speak in a way that arrests hearers?
Part 10: Special Topics:
How do I speak on holidays and about tough topics in a way that is fresh and trustworthy?
Part 11: Evaluation:
How do I get the constructive feedback I need to keep growing?
Tomorrow I post a review of a book that questions the role of sermons – Preaching Re-Imagined by Doug Pagitt.