Friday, August 01, 2014

preaching trio

Someone somewhere has flipped the switch. After spending more than two decades moaning about the lack of basic books on how to preach, such books have been rushing off the press in the last few months (see here and here and here).

In the last couple of weeks, I have read three more and it is hard to be too critical of any of them. Quick and easy reading. Ideal for the beginner - but still so useful for the one who has been around the clock as a preacher.

Alec Motyer's Preaching? (Christian Focus, 2013). For those who don't know the name, Motyer (pronounced 'moteer', as Don Carson corrected me earlier this week!) comes out of that sage and saintly Stottian tradition. It is easy to be captured by the tone of the book, as this voice of experience engages the topic with such warmth, humility and gentleness. It is a lovely book. But the content makes its mark too - as he moves seamlessly between instruction and example. Lots of examples. We are looking over the shoulder of a seasoned preacher. The only thing that detracts from the book is all the exclamation marks. Maybe the editor had one eye on the cricket at Lord's! (please note the exclamation mark).

David Helm's Expositional Preaching (Crossway, 2014). This book fits within The Gospel Coalition world coming out of North America. A little tight theologically - for example, the critique of lectio divina (30-31) is over-the-top. But lots of good stuff. Lives a lot in Acts 17. Great little introduction to biblical theology. Puts the pursuits of relevance and contextualization in their place because they do have a place - but it ain't the primary place. People can talk about contextualisation like it is some new gospel - but 'a healthy gospel ministry is always contextually informed, but textually driven' (106). The only thing that detracts from the book is the diagrams. I might be a bit thick (although I love images) - but they just don't do it for me.

Tim Chester & Marcus Honeysett's Gospel Centred Preaching (Good Book Company, 2014). Preaching is introduced in a chatty, interactive way. If you are developing a team of preachers, this is a great resource to go through together. Each chapter targets an explanation of the simplest of principles - for example, 'Effective preachers trust in the power of the Spirit' (45-52). The advice is so wise, but if you don't read carefully, you'll miss it - for example, 'work on the text until it moves you' (17). The interactivity cements the learning well. - 'ideas for action', 'questions for reflection' etc. The only thing that detracts from the book is that this commitment to interactivity kinda felt like an annoying interruption for me from time to time.

For a couple of decades (1990-2010), when I was developing courses in homiletics, I easily got a bit lost in the more academic world of North American homiletics. On reflection, this world can become so arid. I wish books like these had been around to keep me hydrated.

nice chatting



Unknown said...
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Paul Barker said...

Thanks Paul. I have read the first two, maybe I mentioned Motyer to you, and overall agree. I enjoyed Helm and think it could be expanded and developed. The third book is on the shelf. Also just read a stimulating book called Preaching in the Age of Distraction by Kalas, a 91 year old former Asbury Homiletics Professor.

Geoff New said...

Concerning your observation about his treatment of lectio divina - yes you are VERY right. No doubt he is basing his comments on a degree of knowledge/experience however it is a caricature of lectio divina. For my own part - lectio divina is accompanied by exegesis and study. Bernard of Clairvaux (a great preacher) modeled good use of Scripture through preaching via the agency of lectio divina.

Geoff New said...

Sorry - I ought to have clarified. I'm referring to Helm's book

Paul RW said...

Agreed, Geoff.

For me, it is not just the value of 'lectio divina accompanied by exegesis and study' (as you say) - but lectio divina BEFORE exegesis and study. Those kind of practices are a wonderful way in which to come to the Word initially. In our Latin American preaching movements, they commence an engagement with a passage with 'praying the word'. Something powerful...

Helm is a bit reductionist here in his logic, as he takes a bit of a cheap shot. An embrace of lectio divina does not need to detract from accuracy with the word whatsoever.

I am as big on 'exegesis and study' as anyone - but that pursuit alone can leave the endeavour unduly sterile and clinical.

For me, it is first one and then the other ... on the way to an engaged encounter with the Word that draws me in with both imagination and accuracy alive. It can be done.

Maybe someone needs to write a little book on this area. What do you think?

Geoff New said...

(2nd try at this comment - apologies if 1.0 appears) Yes - the power of praying lectio divina before exegesis/study was one of the key findings of my research. Thomas Merton wrote a wonderful little book about the Bible for those enquirying about the faith - and put study first and personal engagement second. I thought that was interesting coming from a contemplative such as Merton. But my participants found the value of praying the text first (like your Latino friends) hugely important. And to some extent (for New Zealanders at least) counter-cultural. As for your suggestion of someone writing a little book on this - sounds like fun!

Michael Prest said...

Hi Paul, been using the first two starting out teaching homiletics here in Bandung. Really helpful. Will check out the third, thanks.