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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"On Preaching" (H.B. Charles Jr)

TITLE: On Preaching: Practical Advice for Effective Preaching
AUTHOR: H. B. Charles, Jr
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014, (160 pages).

What is biblical preaching? Is it necessary for a preacher or preacher to be to go to seminary? How can one get ready for preaching each week and every week? What about taking a sabbatical from preaching? What has prayer got to do with preaching? These questions and many more are dealt with in this very down to earth treatment of all things preaching. Broadly framed in three parts, the book's central conviction is that preaching is such a huge privilege that it cannot be taken for granted. In talking about the three kinds of preachers, the most important kind is the one we "must" listen to, not can or cannot. Thus, renowned preacher and pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida has given us a handbook of preaching best practices to help us, especially for those who periodically encounter a "preaching crisis." Such a crisis is not something that is bad. Rather, it is an impetus to seek improvement. It is a motivation to become a better herald of God's Word. It is a calling to be equipped to be a better preacher one sermon at a time.

Part One is about the Preparation for preaching. Charles emphasizes the centrality of Scripture as the main text to use. Due to the importance of proper biblical exegesis and understanding, while it is not absolutely essential, preachers are urged to obtain seminary training where possible. This is part of the due diligence process in the preparation for preaching. In order to ensure sufficient time to study, one needs to plan ahead, optimize time usage, and focus. Remember that sermon preparation is also spiritual warfare. Praying, reading, studying, developing, writing, and other steps go into the whole preparation process. Prayer is such an important exercise that the author dedicates two chapters to deal with that.

Part Two is on the Practice of Preaching. If at all possible, use mainly the Scriptures. Whether it is exposition, interpretation, or story telling, readers are urged to go heavy on the Word. He advocates the use of whole books so that one can remain faithful to the overall theme and thrust of the Bible. Such an approach prevents one from adopting choice texts or preferred topics.  He provides tips on how to be a better expository preacher, focusing on repetition, preparation, and dedication. Above all, he asserts that "Praying preachers are strong, healthy, and growing." As an advocate for a "traditional approach," Charles recommends the age old method of telling people what we are going to say, then we say it, and then we summarize what has been said. The bulk of the work needs to be explaining what the text means before trying to bring in applications. I like the part where Charles likens the sermon title to a book. It needs to stimulate interest, emphasize Scripture, adopt variety, and maintain interest. Other interesting chapters include introduction to the sermon, transitions, illustrations, conclusions, and a very helpful chapter on preaching without notes. As a preacher myself, I find his approach very gracious, that we are free to adopt a no-notes or full-notes method, as long as we learn to find our best voice and way to preach. There is no hard and fast rule.

Part Three comprises various Points of Wisdom for Preaching. This section is a kind of a personal journey the author has gone through. Being consistent is important. Being ourselves is equally important. The school of preaching is a lifelong process.  Delivering the sermon is also a delicate art in which we need to be careful not to embarrass individuals. Here, ten tips are given for any preacher to avoid "indecent exposure." On plagiarism, on the one hand, the author insists that all preachers borrow from the Word of God. On the other hand, God uses each individual uniquely.

So What?

This is a surprisingly deep book on preaching. While there are lots of practical tips and advice, I find the content very educational and heartwarming. It creates in me a love for the Word and a desire to share that love through preaching. As a preacher myself, many of the things that Charles have said resonated in me. Things such as prayer where we need to learn to pray throughout the sermon preparation, the delivery, as well as the post-sermon time. God's work done in God's way will certainly receive God's power. The book has many brief chapters, all soaked with wisdom. If you are a preacher, you will benefit a lot from the wisdom and advice. If you are not, you can get a better idea about how to pray for your pastor or preacher. If you are a student, you will get an idea of the overall preaching process and find out God's calling about the preaching ministry.

While not everyone of us are called to preach, we can still benefit from understanding the complex mechanisms that go into every sermon, technically, textually, and spiritually. Most importantly, it is the sensing of the Spirit of God that helps preachers of the Word be powerful deliverers of the Word. May God be glorified in our preaching.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Moody Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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