Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Preach by Mark Dever & Greg Gilbert

I love preaching. I love to preach and I love to listen to men preach. One of the men that I have come to really respect on the topic of preaching (or anything else relating to the church) is Mark Dever. Along with his friend, Greg Gilbert, they have put in print their view of preaching in a great book called Preach: Theology Meets Practice. This might not end up being the definitive book ever written on the subject of preaching. And I don't think they think it is. They do express at the beginning of the book three reasons why they think a book like this would be useful:
"First, we can see rising in the evangelical church a loss of confidence in the preached Word of God . . . Second, we see throughout much of the evangelical church a lack of confidence in biblical exposition . . . Third, we want to work against the bad name that even some expositional preachers have given to expositional preaching" (3-5).
The outcome of their efforts is a book that introduces the subject of preaching in an easy, simple to understand, manner. The book is divided into three parts: Theology, Practice, Sermon Transcripts.

In this section, they argue that we preach because God speaks. This is the foundation of our preaching. And the words that God speaks is really powerful. They go on to make this argument:
"If preaching is simply a way--one way among many--of ascertaining new knowledge about God and the Bible, then there are a myriad ways for a person to do that. Reading books, watching videos, listening to podcasts, and having conversations with other Christians all fill that bill. Similarly, if preaching is nothing more than one man doing a bit of public meditation on spiritual truths, then there are countless ways for people to get that benefit. Why not meditate on God's truth together, in a conversation, for instance?  
But if preaching really is the proclamation of God's life-giving, ex nihilo creating Word, then the stakes are raised considerably, and it's no longer a matter of preference whether we do it or not. It's literally a matter of life and death. The Bible presents the act of preaching as having just that sort of power and authority. It is the preached Word, it seems, which the Holy Spirit uses in a unique way to give life and ignite faith in a person's soul" (30-31).
From there, they argue that preaching should be expositional in nature. That doesn't mean to them that it must be word by word or text by text. But it does mean that God's Word is explained in an ordinary fashion. And that explanation of God's Word should be the focal point of the main worship service in the life of the church.

The second section of the book would not be helpful without the first. But once a person is convinced that preaching is central, then it is important to refine that skill. They begin by giving some advice on what to preach on. Their advice is to preach on the entire Bible, preach through books of the Bible, and to preach at different levels of the Bible (what they mean by that is sometimes to focus on the forest and sometimes to focus on tree). This was one thing that I learned from Dever when I attended The Weekender. He basically told us that pastors make picking something to preach too complicated. He has a system in place that helps him. He goes from different testaments and different genres of literature in a calculated manner. For instance, he will preach from OT Law and then to NT Gospels & Acts, then to OT Histories, then to Pauline Epistles, and so on.

The rest of this section was a helpful reminder. In the chapter on sermon preparation, I was convicted that I have been too reliant upon commentaries recently. I have a tendency to consult them before I have spent enough time in the text.

One other aspect of this section was how they encouraged preachers to have a good platform to have people help them review their sermons. They say doing this teaches people how "to give godly criticism, to receive godly criticism, to give godly encouragement, and to receive godly encouragement" (133).

Sermon Transcripts
In this last section, they illustrate how to give good sermon reviews. They give the full text of a two sermons (one by each of them) and show how they interact with each other as they are giving a review of their sermons. It was helpful to read their interaction to each other. And I see how this could be very helpful in the life of the church.

It does not matter if you want to preach, just started to preach, or are an experienced preacher, I think this book could be helpful to you. Pick it up, you never know what sort of jewel you might find that will help you become a better preacher.

1 comment:

  1. I find it hard to have any respect for Mark Dever when he hasn't pointed out the blatant sin that is in C.J. Mahaney's life. Worse, Mark Dever has enabled C.J. Mahaney to live in deception including making C.J. Mahaney think he really hasn't done anything wrong.


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