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

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


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!

With the Time You Have

As I wander through Preach the Word, I am taking advantage of little nuggets here and there to prompt posts.  Today I’m influenced by Wayne Grudem’s article on “Right and Wrong Interpretation of the Bible.”  He makes a point that I have probably made before, but it bears repeating.

Grudem writes, “It is possible to do a short or long study of any passage.  Do what you can with the time you have, and don’t be discouraged about all that you cannot do.”

Study time is not prescribed. I’m often asked how long sermon preparation should take.  A standard question, to which I give a probably standard answer – “as long as you have.”  It doesn’t help to feel bound to a ten-hour minimum study phase if you simply don’t have ten hours to study the passage.  Grudem gives the example of having to give a devotional talk with ten minutes warning.  Can it be done?  Of course.  He doesn’t suggest it is a good idea to prepare for ten minutes, but it can be done.  On the other hand, the same passage might be studied for twenty hours in anticipation of a Sunday sermon, for two or three hundred hours in the preparation of an academic article, or for a full year or more for the sake of a PhD.

Don’t be discouraged by time you don’t have. Seems obvious, but it’s so easy to get discouraged when we think of all that we have not done in our preparation.  Resources not checked, words not fully studied, verbs unparsed, syntax not diagrammed, cross-references not referenced, etc.  If you didn’t have time, God knows that, and we need to know that too.

Don’t be disqualified by time you didn’t use. I would add this to the mix.  Often there is not enough time.  But sometimes we fail to use the time we have.  Obviously that is not good.  Often it is inexcusable.  Who was it that referred to time-wasting as the greatest sin of the younger generation?  Anyway, when you know your time is running out and you can’t honestly say you used every moment as you should have, what should you do?  You shouldn’t carry a weight of guilt and self-recrimination that steals your heart away from the privilege of knowing God and preaching His Word.  It is important to do what you preach – keep a short account with God, confess, repent, accept forgiveness.  We don’t sin so that grace may increase, but praise the Lord that there is plenty of grace in His character . . . we need it!