Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Priority of Preaching by Christopher Ash

I was first introduced to Christopher Ash when someone had told me that he has written a short booklet on how to listen to preaching (Listen Up!). It was originally printed in the UK, just a few months before my book (Helping Johnny Listen) on listening to preaching was published. I was eager to read his take on how to listen to preaching (which by the way, if you are looking for a very short thought on that subject, his resource is very helpful).

It was a few months later that I was at a pastor's conference when Alistair Begg quoted Christopher Ash as an expert in preaching. It was at that time that I picked up The Priority of Preaching as I was looking for a good resource on the art of preaching. This very short book that deals with the importance of preaching is one of the best resources I have ever read on the topic. I could not recommend it enough!

His take is that the sermons that are preached every week in churches, small and large alike, are much more powerful and needed than any large conference sermon that is preached. He says, 
"This little book is written for ordinary ministers who preach regularly to ordinary people in ordinary places, who may dream of being world-renowned but are going to be spared that fate . . . the sermons you and I preach week by week in ordinary local churches are more significant than most conference addresses even if they were to be recorded and played back all over the world" (12-13).
That is a very humbling and powerful thought. But is it true? Throughout the book, he focuses on the book of Deuteronomy, as the people of Israel are receiving a message from God. One of the most interesting parts of the book is when he articulates that preaching is trans-cultural. Every culture there has ever been has seen someone stand in front of others and speak. On the other hand, small Bible study groups are a modern day phenomenon. The small groups is culturally narrow as opposed to preaching.

His insights are inspiring. But they are humbling. He holds nothing back as he seeks to inform the preacher that he has a high calling to preach with a borrowed authority. But with that authority comes great responsibility. He says that the preacher needs to stay engaged with the people so that he can know how to articulate and answer their objections as he preaches.

He rightly believes that the calling of preaching is what God is going to use to change the church and the world. In order for that to happen, preaching needs to take a central place in the life of the church. He says, 
"A church can very easily become any of these things--superficial, empty, even hostile to God. So how is the world to be reassembled? Not by technology. Not by force. Not by natural human affection. Not by religion. But only by grace. Only the preached word of Christ, the word of grace preached again and again and again, pressed home with passion and engagement, only that word will create God's assembly to rebuild a broken world" (96). 
One of the highlights of the book is that it is very practical. This book is like a short seminary class on preaching. Take it. Read it. Study it. And live it.

He really believes in expository preaching. Or maybe I should call it preaching through books of the Bible. In the appendix, he gives several reasons why he believes that this type of preaching is the most effective. On pages 111-121, he argues that Consecutive Expository Preaching . . .
  1. Safeguards God's agenda against being hijacked by ours.
  2. Makes it harder for us to abuse the Bible by reading it out of context.
  3. Dilutes the selectivity of the preacher.
  4. Keeps the content of the sermon fresh and surprising.
  5. Makes for variety in the style of the sermon.
  6. Models good nourishing Bible reading for the ordinary Christian.
  7. Helps us preach the whole Christ from the whole of Scripture
If you are a preacher, you should read this book. If you are not a preacher, this book will help you understand your preacher better and make you a better listener. Pick it up today.

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