Review: The Art of Prophesying with the Calling of the Ministry: A Needed Tool for All Pastors

The Art of Prophesying with The Calling of the Ministry: A Needed Tool for All PastorsThe Art of Prophesying with The Calling of the Ministry: A Needed Tool for All Pastors by William Perkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The original being published in the late 1500s was the first book on preaching written and published in the English language. By “prophesying,” the author refers to preaching as the expounding of Scripture and application of its truth to the congregation. It’s an old usage and does not in any way refer to modern day prophesying by various charismatics.

Perkins treats preaching from a pastoral perspective. There are some practical suggestions here and there, but very little space is given to aspects of delivery. He primarily deals with interpreting and expounding Scripture. So it’s quite a contrast from so many more modern books on preaching. Perkins throughout promotes a high view of the sufficiency and authority of Scripture, such that preaching including teaching, reproof, correction, and instruction, should all come from the meaning of the passage of Scripture. This high view of Scripture and the presupposition that all aspects of preaching should derive from the natural meaning of the text is what gives this treatment on preaching high value. Even his words on applications have the same assumption.

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Review: Preaching in the New Testament

Preaching in the New TestamentPreaching in the New Testament by Jonathan Griffiths
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a biblical theology of preaching in the New Testament. The author seeks to find the link, if it exists, from prophetic preaching, to Jesus, to Paul, to Timothy, and to post-apostolic preaching today. He makes a good argument in exegetical fashion with examination of three key terms for preaching in the New Testament and some key textual passages relevant to preaching.

This is not a how-to book, so it will not be much help to learn how to preach. The book deals more with the why of preaching and emphasizes that preaching God’s word as he has given it is how God’s voice is heard today. He focuses on the public proclamation of God’s word in the assembly of God’s people, but he also give some remarks to other facets of word ministry.

This book is more a foundational study of preaching. Though not teaching how to preach, explaining the foundation of preaching will surely shape how it is done. This book isn’t light reading, but it isn’t too technical. I enjoyed the thought provoking study and will return to it again for reference.

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Review: Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon

Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository SermonChrist-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon by Bryan Chapell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a good book on preaching. The explanation of exposition was good and there are great nuggets scattered throughout. I think the chapter on illustrations was really good. I also liked the explanation of what Christ-centered exposition is. I did not buy in on his fallen condition focus approach to a text. I also would poke at some the stuff on application. The appendices provide brief, practical advice. Overall it a good book on preaching expository sermons.

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Review: Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers

Why Johnny Can't Preach: The Media Have Shaped the MessengersWhy Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers by T. David Gordon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

By the title of this book I expected it to be somewhat playful, but Gordon is all business. It is a serious subject and a serious problem, so his serious manner is appropriate. He transparently states the state of things in the average pulpit today. Though anecdotal, anyone with church-going experience can verify his unscientific findings. His concern is not that there are no great preachers today, but rather that the average pulpit in the average church doesn’t even have average preaching, but less than mediocre preaching.

Usually churches respond to this problem by trying to make up for it in other ways. They fool about with styles of music, interior design and decoration, technology, nurseries, groups, programs, etc. If they address the preaching directly it is to push for the twenty minute, one thought type of message. Gordon points out this is like a hospital having an excessive death rate in surgeries and choosing to address it by banning the use of scalpels in the operating room.

He doesn’t merely bewail the state of things but seeks to uncover the problem root. He acknowledges seminaries are imperfect, but he can’t lay the blame there. He contends Johnnies don’t have the inculturation necessary to preach well before they even enter seminary. He lists three sensibilities a man must have cultivated before he even begins to learn to preach. 1) “the sensibility of the close reading of texts.” 2) “the sensibility of composed communication.” 3) “the sensibility of the significant.”

He concludes by recommending ways Johnnies can cultivate these sensibilities. He did not set out to write the definitive work on preaching, but rather to address requisite beginning. His case is well put and compelling. Any man who is called to preach must be aware of the limitations of his upbringing in the media ecology of today and he must be deliberate about cultivating the skills required to preach well. If this book gets a man pointed in this direction, then it is well worth it.

I found some parts less compelling than others. I also scratched my head at different times. For instance, Gordon made a point of not apologizing for his classic use of masculine pronouns. So he baldly states he will be uber-conservative, traditional, and stodgy on that point. However, he makes a point of this in order to say that his old school grammarian ways are not to be interpreted to exclude women. Say what? This is a book about preachers and preaching and you make a point of saying you’re not excluding women. So in the same breath he defends his curmudgeonly use of grammar, but in service of liberal, progressive error. I think Johnny the Apostle might say, “That maketh no sense.”

I still think it’s a worthy book but reading it might be like listening to a lecture from a professor with a bad comb-over. What he is saying is important, but those flyaways can be distracting.

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Barrenness in the Ministry


Reading Words to Winners of Souls by Horatius Bonar is a good way for preachers to start the year. It is a small book that packs a big punch. It brings excellent conviction and exhortation for us to begin a new year of ministry.

Here are Bonar’s words on being satisfied with a barren ministry:

To deliver sermons on each returning Lord’s Day, to administer the Lord’s Supper statedly, to pay an occasional visit to those who request it, to attend religious meetings—this, we fear, sums up the ministerial life of multitudes who are, by profession, overseers of the flock of Christ. An incumbency of thirty, forty or fifty years often yields no more than this. So many sermons, so many baptisms, so many sacraments, so many visits, so many meetings of various kinds-these are all the pastoral annals, the parish records, the ALL of a lifetime’s ministry to many! Of souls that have been saved, such a record could make no mention.

Multitudes have perished under such a ministry; the judgment only will disclose whether so much as one has been saved. There might be learning, but there was no tongue of the learned to speak a word in season to him that is weary.” There might be wisdom, but it certainly was not the wisdom that “winneth souls.” There might even be the sound of the gospel, but it seemed to contain no glad tidings at all; it was not sounded forth from warm lips into startled ears as the message of eternal life—”the glorious gospel of the blessed God.” Men lived, and it was never asked of them by their minister whether they were born again! Men sickened, sent for the minister and received a prayer upon their death-beds as their passport into heaven. Men died, and were buried where all their fathers had been laid; there was a prayer at their funeral and decent respects to their remains; but their souls went up to the judgment seat unthought of, uncared for; no man, not even the minister who had vowed to watch for them, having said to them, Are you ready?—or warned them to flee from the wrath to come.

Is not this description too true of many a district and many a minister? We do not speak in anger; we do not speak in scorn: we ask the question solemnly and earnestly. It needs an answer. If ever there was a time when there should be “great searching of heart” and frank acknowledgment of unfaithfulness, it is now when God is visiting us—visiting us both in judgment and mercy. We speak in brotherly kindness; surely the answer should not be of wrath and bitterness. And if this description be true, what sin must there be in ministers and people! How great must be the spiritual desolation that prevails’! Surely there is something in such a case grievously wrong; something which calls for solemn self-examination in every minister; something which requires deep repentance.