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Friday, January 20, 2017

"Preaching Old Testament Narratives" (Benjamin H. Walton)

TITLE: Preaching Old Testament Narratives (Preaching with Excellence)
AUTHOR: Benjamin H. Walton
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2016, (256 pages).

What does it mean to preach with biblical authority? How do we preach in a manner that relates to modern life? What is biblical preaching and expository preaching? This comes from sound exegesis and hermeneutics, followed by an appropriate rhetoric. Beginning with the stories of three pastors trying to preach biblically and with relevance an Old Testament narrative, this book compares the differences between Old and New Testament narratives. We are advised against adopting a "monkey-see-monkey-do" method of interpretation. He teaches us terms like:

  • Complete Unit of Thought (CUT)
  • Original-Theological Message (OTM)
  • Take-Home Truth (THT)
He cautions us from ways of misapplying the Bible: like springboarding; universalizing plot lines; and ways in which we fail to consider properly a CUT; a OTM; and a THT. Walton shows us the way through the following steps:
  1. Selecting a CUT
  2. Identifying the Theological and Historical contexts
  3. Studying the Plot
  4. Discovering the OTM
  5. Crafting the THT

I am very impressed with the level of clarity and concise description of each of these steps. He gives helpful worksheets with regard to cutting the passage accurately and with sensitivity to the contexts. He shows us the way to ask good questions and to use quality reference works. He gives examples on how the steps are applied, in particular to 2 Sam 11-12. Here, he gives an introduction of the contexts from 2 Sam 10-20; provides an overview of the covenants through history; and moves from text selection to THT.

The second part of the book is about delivery of the message, which constitutes two-thirds of the entire book. We learn about the four pillars of excellent preaching (Accuracy, Relevance, Clarity, Inspiration). We look at the five common approaches to preaching OT narratives. Walton shows how to craft the all-important Introduction by helping the preacher develop greater self-awareness; using stories; involving listeners; and to preach through movements of the sermon. There is a strong use of the Big-Idea-Preaching method popularized by Harold Robinson. We learn of picture templates; problem setting; rationalization; plot twists; transitions; etc. Gradually, we hone in on Christ by discovering different ways in which to preach Christ. Walton uses Robinson's Big-Idea-Preaching theory and adopts Donald Sunukjian's homiletic in chapters 4-10. They use a "text-centered, audience-focused" approach. Preaching well means being faithful to the text and being friendly to the congregation. This is well worth reading and multiple re-readings.

Preachers will find this book a very helpful resource because it condenses many of the important preaching texts and resources in one volume. Students of preaching will be very familiar with the various preaching concepts listed in the book. As there are lots of resources out there, the busy pastor would appreciate having in one volume condensed information to remind them of what they have learned. The part on actual delivery is perhaps the strongest part of the book. Walton demonstrates great understanding of the need to exegete the audience as part of preparing to preach. We are called to consider gender, age, cultural identity, employment status, marital status, kids' ages, and regular activities they do. Some preachers spend too much time looking at books and commentaries and too little time understanding their audience. Walton's approach helps us bring back the balance.

All in all, I am most happy to recommend this book as a resource for pastors, preachers, and teachers. It is definitely an easy-to-follow book. What remains is the hardest: Putting it into practice in our own contexts. As far as this book is concerned, I give it a high and strong thumbs up!

This book is based on Benjamin Walton's DMin thesis that he completed with Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has his mentors in Donald Sunukjian (Talbot) and Jeff Arthurs (GCTS). Walton is President of PreachingWorks, an organization that is dedicated to helping pastors preach better.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Kregel Academic and Ministry without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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