two books on preaching

One for novices. One for veterans.

For veterans: Cornelius Plantinga, Reading for Preaching (Eerdmans, 2013). Preaching goes better when you do it in conversation with others - namely 'storytellers, biographers, poets, and journalists' (the subtitle). 'The reading preacher will discover that great writers know the road to the human heart and, once at their destination, know how to move our hearts (6).'

Sometimes it feels like we are rummaging around the author's illustration file and because it is his file (not mine), I did lose interest every now and then. But Plantinga is a great writer himself and persistence is rewarded: for example, 'name-dropping is the self-important person's low-budget advertising business (14).'

Readers will appreciate the fresh call to do illustration well; a chapter on clarity/diction, using Barbara Brown Taylor and John Steinbeck (his favourite author, I suspect) as case studies (44-64); a useful 'Selected Reading List' (127-130) ... and his final chapter, 'Wisdom on Sin and Grace' (107-126), is one to which I will return - maybe even some required reading for long-suffering students.

The book concludes with a peculiar appendix: 'Note to Readers who are Preachers or Love Preachers'. In it there is a paragraph that captures the focus and flavour of what Plantinga is doing:
The comfort in having a database full of juicy stuff is that when the day comes to preach on, say, compassion ('Clothe yourselves with compassion...') you already have insights, stories, observations, so that not only you but also your sermons can get clothed with compassion. The idea here is this: you do an honest job of exegesis, and you run your exegeted text through your hermeneutical filters, and you sketch a sermon design. Now, bearing in mind that the Estee Lauder perfume company suggests that wearers spray a mist into the air and then 'walk through it', what you want to do is to spray your juicy stuff on compassion into the air and then walk your exegeted text through it. Maybe something fragrant will cling. (132-133)
For novices. Jason Meyer's Preaching: A Biblical Theology (Crossway, 2013). For Meyer, 'the ministry of the word in Scripture is stewarding and heralding God's word in such a way that people encounter God through his word (21).' These are the three categories with which he plays, with the 'stewardship' one being particularly compelling for me.

After using one of my own cherished images ('unpacking suitcases', at which point my unsanctified heart sank!), Meyer gives his attention to the entire biblical story. Half the book is devoted to a survey of ten 'paradigm shifts in the ministry of the word' through Scripture (73-234) - keeping his finger on the text and looking for calling, 'stewarding, heralding and encountering' along the way. So many who have gone before have fast-forwarded through places like the Psalms, the Wisdom books and the prophets. But not this guy. I think I'll develop a double-sided A4 handout with a summary of these pages on it. Ironically, the weakest 'paradigm' is the one where he tries to draw Jesus into this schema. To me, it didn't really work as he becomes distracted by irony in Mark's narrative. But maybe I am a bit thick...

The final handful of brief, simple chapters are also useful. Meyer looks at the What, How and Why of expository preaching. With echoes of DA Carson's 'preaching as re-revelation', he describes preaching as being about three Rs: '(1) to re-present the word of God in such a way that the preacher (2) represents the God of the word (3) so that people respond to God (240).' There is a chapter engaging with an increasingly common critique of expository preaching - namely that it is not biblical (see 270-279). He provides an entry point into the relative merits of topical preaching (292-297).

The book concludes with 'A Crash Course on Preaching Books Available Today' (319-333) and a comprehensive bibliography. Helpful though this book is, it is no textbook on preaching. The territory it does cover, it covers well - but there is far more territory to consider if we are talking 'textbook'. Darrell Johnson's work is still without parallel for this purpose in my opinion.

nice chatting

Paul


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