Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Passionate Plea for Preaching

My primary responsibility is preaching. And I want to continually sharpen my view and skills at preaching. One way in which I try to do that is to read more and more about preaching than I ever have in the past. Many of the books I am picking up these days have to do with the role of the pastor, particularly the role of preaching. And the more I read, the more I preach, the more I appreciate and love the act of preaching.

Enter A Passionate Plea for Preaching. This is a book written by the Who's who in conservative evangelicalism. J. Ligon Duncan, who did not write a chapter in the book, did pen some words in a Foreword. In summarizing this book, he said,
"This is a good book to read on preaching; it is a spiritually challenging and topically pertinent. We find here an assemblage of veritable titans of robust evangelicalism, all of whom share in common a firm commitment to and ability for expository preaching (that is, the faithful explanation and application of the Bible in which the text of Scripture supplies the matter of the preacher's exhortations rather than the preacher using the text as an occasion for his own expostulations . . .). The author's topics are timely, their counsel is wise, and they will richly and quickly reward the teachable reader." (ix).
Here is a list of the chapters and who contributed their thoughts on this act of preaching.
    • The Primacy of Preaching by Albert Mohler
    • The Foolishness of Preaching by James Montgomery Boice
    • Expository Preaching by Derek Thomas
    • Experiential Preaching by Joel Beeke
    • The Teaching Preacher by R. C. Sproul
    • Preaching to the Mind by R. C. Sproul Jr.
    • Preaching to the Heart by Sinclair Ferguson
    • Preaching with Authority by Don Kistler
    • Evangelistic Preaching by Eric Alexander
    • Preaching to Suffering People by John Piper
    • A Reminder to Shepherds by John MacArthur
I do not have time to talk about every chapter, so let me talk about just one. I know it might seem like a copout, and you might question whether I read the entire book, but the first chapter impacted me the most. I was greatly refreshed by Albert Mohler's chapter on The Primacy of Preaching. I am sure glad that it was first, for he helped set the tone of the necessity of preaching. He makes the observation towards the beginning of the chapter that not many churches are known by their preaching. He says,
"Rarely do we hear these days that a church is distinguished primarily by its preaching. When we hear people speak about their own congregations or make comparative remarks about other congregations, generally they speak about something other than preaching . . . rarely do you hear a church described, first and foremost, by the character, power, and content of its preaching. This is because few preachers today are true servants of the Word." (4)
He gives many reasons for this. One is that a solid preaching ministry often sees very slow fruit. Yes, fruit will come, but it "will take time to show" (5). Another reason is that it often seems that the more faithful a man is to preaching the Word, usually the more trouble comes his way. Because the Word of God tends to rebuke and correct people, it is not uncommon for the man who preaches faithfully to be ejected or fired. "That is simply one of the realities of pulpit ministry" (6). Towards the end, he summarizes some final helpful thoughts.
"First, if we are to be servants of the Word, the priorities of our ministry must be such that the preaching of the Word is central--everything else must fall into place behind this priority . . . Second, our congregations must be aware of this priority and honor it . . . Then it is the congregations responsibility to hold him accountable for that preaching and to measure his effectiveness and his faithfulness to, of all things, the pulpit ministry. Third, if we are to be servants of the Word, our preaching must be truly expository. That is, it must truly expound and apply the text of Scripture, declaring the Word of God to the people of God with admonishment, then trusting the Holy Spirit to apply that Word." (16)
Amen! And I heed those admonitions. Those at CBC, do you? Will you?

Preachers, will you continue to work at your trade of preaching?

Listeners, will you work at listening with the same enthusiasm that you want your preachers to work at preaching?

If you want to become a better listener, allow me a shameless plug that my book might be a good place to start: Helping Johnny Listen. 

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