The Non-Academic Preacher Compliment

Last week I spoke to a friend who had asked to borrow my master’s thesis.  He was positive about it, but mentioned that he’d had to look up some terms I’d used.  He was a bit surprised since he doesn’t have that challenge when I preach.  That’s an encouraging compliment in my eyes!

Here’s a quick quote that is somewhat related in Phillip Jensen’s chapter, “Preaching the Word Today” in Preach the Word, the book of essays in honor of Kent Hughes:

With the discriminating eye of the cynic, the modern scholar can deconstruct the author’s writings so as to explain what he “really” meant.  Only the expert – never the ploughboy – can know what was meant.  The priesthood of all believers is no longer replaced by the sacerdotalism of the sacramentalists but by the arrogance of the academy.

We need to be so careful.  I think it is good to get the best academic training possible (a matter of good stewardship), but we need to be very careful not to develop the easily associated arrogance that comes with training, nor to carry that arrogance into the pulpit.  We serve the priesthood of all believers; we are not the priesthood for all other believers.

Let’s make sure we open up the Bible in peoples’ laps, rather than moving it further away from them.  Let’s make sure we communicate well, rather than impress with lofty language that the ploughboy doesn’t understand.  Let’s make sure we prepare for ministry and prepare for a message as fully as we are able, but not let that show in any way that will hinder our listeners.

Review: Preach the Word, edited by Leland Ryken & Todd Wilson

Subtitle: Essays on Expository Preaching in Honor of R. Kent Hughes (2007)

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Kent Hughes is a name I have been aware of for many years, but honestly I have never heard him preach or read any of his books.  Still, this book of essays written in his honor caught my attention.  Collections of essays in honor of individuals of spiritual stature range in quality from excellent to extremely ordinary.  Sometimes their quality of production falls far short of the person’s life and ministry they are intended to honor.  Not so in this case.  This book is a quality production from Crossway and a decent collection of essays from an impressive list of contributors.  This book is worthy of our attention.

Divided into four parts, the book contains sixteen essays, culminating in a gracious and encouraging biographical essay on the life and influence of Kent Hughes.  By the end of this book, you will have greater motivation to pursue the exposition of God’s Word, and a greater passion to expand that ministry by influencing the next generation.  Not a bad legacy to honor Kent Hughes’ ministry.

The first part is concerned with Interpretive Principles and Practices.  The book begins with a call to expository preaching from David Jackman.  John MacArthur offers a sound although very basic introduction to inductive Bible study.  Paul House considers the preaching of Old Testament narratives with a focus on three sermons from Acts.  Wayne Grudem offers a helpful chapter on rightly interpreting the Bible.  The only chapter to surpass Grudem’s contribution in this section is the excellent offering on “The Bible as Literaure and Expository Preaching” by co-editor, Leland Ryken.

The second part focuses on Biblical and Historical Paradigms.  Bruce Winter helpfully considers Paul’s approach to warfare in reference to the thought processes of his listeners – how to preach to minds not fully renewed.  Duane Litfin’s chapter on Paul’s kerygma foolishness in 1Cor.1-4 is superb.  In my notes I remarked the book was worth the price for this chapter alone.  Wallace Benn moves the book into church history with a straightforward summary of Richard Baxter’s classic, The Reformed Pastor. J.I.Packer then adds another heavyweight and inspiring article (in power, not in density), a delight of a chapter on Charles Simeon.

The third part concerns Contemporary Challenges and Aims.  Here you find Phillip Jensen and D.A.Carson’s more engaging lecture on contemporary challenges in ministry.  Philip Ryken then offers a very good call for expository preaching that is evangelistic, doctrinal and practical.

The fourth and final part focuses on Training and Example.  Peter Jensen considers the seminary setting, where he rightly wishes that expository preaching were the primary goal of the entire faculty.  Jon Dennis offers a detailed list of eight principles for multiplying ministers from 2Tim.2:2 and its surrounding context.  David Helm brings in British church history again, in an engaging article that looks for a generation of preachers to be trained.

This is a solid book, well worth buying and reading.  The essays are all decent and worthy of their place, although it must be recognized that the offerings of Leland Ryken, Duane Litfin and J.I Packer (perhaps with David Helm’s historically birthed effort attached to Packer’s consideration of Simeon) – these stand out as especially worthy of note and worth the price of the book!