About This Blog

Thursday, August 24, 2017

"Progress in the Pulpit" (Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix)

TITLE: Progress in the Pulpit: How to Grow in Your Preaching
AUTHOR: Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2017, (240 pages).

Every preacher needs to progress in his preaching.  As a follow up to "Power in the Pulpit" which is about the strategies of preaching, this book is more about the preacher rather than the preaching. It is especially for seasoned preachers or those wanting a dose of freshness in their pulpit ministry. In short, good preachers require good preachers. Growth in pulpit ministry requires growth in spirituality. Each author contributes about half of the book. They combine to help us redefine what a sermon actually is; how to do a fresh development of the sermon process; and ways to improve sermon delivery. They remind preachers about the fundamental approach: Expository preaching, and defines it as opening the biblical text in such a way that "biblical text in such a way that the Holy Spirit’s intended meaning and attending power are brought to bear on the lives of contemporary listeners." It is common to have preachers straying away from the Word over time. This reminder helps us get back on the biblical track and to make the Bible primary, and all other things secondary. They are aware of the many pastors and preachers from all denominations who had fallen into some immoral trap. Maintain a strong devotional life. Be separate from the influences of worldliness. Take ministerial ethics seriously. Do not underestimate the importance of purity. Don't be too quick to conclude we don't have a word from God when there are 66 books of the Bible open to us. An interesting idea lies in "pulpit discipleship" where the authors advocate the use of preaching to disciple people. They share two models of preaching. The first is a fascinating picture of the "concentric circles of discipleship" which integrates the ministry of preaching with discipleship. With the Word of God as core, the first circle is to the commissioned, the second circle is community, and the outermost circle is the crowd. Preach to the commissioned. Progress to spiritual conversations in community. Proclaim the gospel far and wide to the crowd just like Jesus. The second model is that of "incarnational preaching" which also utilizes the three concentric circles of Christ as core; persuading the Conscience in the commissioned, preparing the Conduct in community; and promoting Community in the crowd.

In "Developing the Sermon," the authors challenge us to preach literature and to take a fresh look at modern translations, without forgetting traditional translations like the King James Version. Being open to the new paraphrases and updated versions help us look at the Word in new ways. Maintain a grasp of the biblical genres. Adopt clear outlines. We also learn about how the late Justice Scalia insisted on reading the Constitution as were intended by the original authors. This is also applicable to the way we treat the Word of God. I appreciate the reminder to preachers to always be prepared to explain to others the meaning of words such as salvation, justification, sanctification, faith, hope, love, etc. There is a helpful chapter about making a beeline to the cross in every sermon. While it is agreed that Christ must always be preached, the difference lies in how we get there. Faithfulness to the text is different from preaching Christ in every text. We must be careful not to say what the text does not say even when we rush toward Christ. In this book, we learn the three ways to connect to the Cross: Christocentric (Christ as central theme), Christotelic (Christ as fulfilment), and christiconic (Christlikeness with Christ as goal). Rather than sticking to just one, Shaddix challenges us to do all three! Great thought. Combine the three methods in appropriate combinations with questions like:

  • How do the texts speak directly or indirectly about Jesus?
  • How does the text point to Jesus being the fulfilment of prophecy?
  • How does this look like on this side of the cross?
  • What can we learn from the text about Christlikeness?
  • What does it say about our need for Christ?

Having these perspectives is only part of the journey. The other part is to show people how we get there. I find this chapter particularly helpful because it brings into conversation the oft-mentioned topic of Christo-centricity whenever we preach. All preaching, especially expository types must be Christ-centered. The difference is how we implement it, and Shaddix helps us not only by sharing the different perspectives but showing us the way to go about doing it. The chapter on imagination points out something I have been burdened about all along. In our scientific world, we have become so task driven that we have forgotten how to dream. We are high in techniques and methodologies but low in imagination and literary arts. We need not only logic but also word pictures, visual arts, and picturesque verbal communications.

Part Three comes back to delivering the sermon, and preachers can grow in the pulpit through understanding changing cultural climate. Vines captures our imagination with the story of Rip Van Winkle sleeping through a sermon in the 16th Century and waking up in the 21st Century. It is a powerful introduction. Yet, we are reminded that while contextualization is important, staying faithful to the text is even more important. There is communication theory and behavioural science to be aware of. Learn to lead the way. Give altar calls. Be humble about receiving feedback and focus on objective learning. Find creative ways to get feedback. One helpful "cardinal rule" is to be focused about "first-order doctrinal issues" and not be sidetracked by disagreements over secondary matters. That is wise indeed. Finally, what better way to grow then to disciple others in preaching? Indeed. If "Power in the Pulpit" is powerful, this book raises the bar for preaching effectiveness.

Jerry Vines is Past President of Southern Baptist Convention and is passionate about helping fellow pastors be more effective in their preaching and expository sermons. He first accepted the call at First Baptist Church in July 1982 and retired from the pastorate in Feb 2006. His website is at Jerry Vines Ministries. Jim Shaddix is Professor of Preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and is passionate about discipling young leaders.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


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

No comments:

Post a Comment