Preachers feed on the Book; and we do so partly by feasting on books. In addition to commentaries and other volumes which help us in the preparation of specific messages, it is also important for us to keep up with those books that help us develop the preaching gifts God has given to us. This year, there were a number of excellent ones from which to choose.
One of the most valuable—and the one that receives our nod as Preaching Book of the Year for 2011—is Preaching as Worship: An Integrative Approach to Formation in Your Church by Michael J. Quicke. The outstanding volume is published by Baker Books.
As we observed in our original review last year, a dangerous trend has emerged in the American evangelical church during the past two decades. Increasingly, our members, as well as leaders, think of worship as the musical segment of the service, while preaching is considered a separate category apart from worship. In the midst of the often-foolish worship wars that have embroiled so many churches, this dichotomy between preaching and worship has slipped into our church life almost unnoticed.
Enter Michael Quicke, who insists preaching is at the heart of authentic Christian worship in Preaching as Worship. Firmly rooted in the Trinitarian perspective that characterizes his books, Quicke helps us regain a biblical understanding of worship as an encounter with the living God.
He begins with an evaluation of why worship has become an afterthought for many and shares how he came to his own insight that worship goes far beyond what takes place at 11 a.m. on Sunday. He shares characteristics of “myopic preaching…a serious indicator that preachers have separated their task from worship.” The results of such an approach are worshipless sermons—as “theologically thin, spiritually disconnected, empty of God, silent about His grace, self-satisfied and self-oriented, such sermons are devoid of worship. This is partly because the preachers themselves lack awe and wonder at their part in God’s call and response. Humble dependence in gratitude before God who has given His Word should take place instead of rushing ahead to offer their own words.”
Urging readers toward a bigger definition of worship, Quicke insists any real definition will go beyond music or preaching. “Worship must always begin with God,” he insists, “who reveals His intentions in Scripture that worship be God-centered, God-empowered, all-inclusive, continuous and focused on His glory.” Worship is “God’s greatest idea for our highest purpose, participating with and empowered by His triune grace.”
Adapting the model he introduced in his earlier book 360-Degree Preaching, Quicke notes preaching must be set within the context of 360-degree worship. He cites “worship’s primary spiritual dynamic—from God back to God—within which preachers are called and gifted to preach. Preachers belong within God’s triune love, participating in His gracious relationships, movement and power. Vital though preaching is, it belongs within the glorious work of worship, of God’s Word returning to Him.”
Preachers, says Quicke, must recognize their calling is to far more than “sermon-making.” They must see their highest calling is to worship—”they are worshipers before they are preachers”—and that “preaching itself is worship.” Such preaching as worship must aim at community transformation—to “help individual believers integrate into church life and learn what it means to belong and mature together in Christ’s new community.”
The book offers helpful guidance to church leaders in thinking through ways to reclaim biblical models of worship in a variety of contemporary church settings. Quicke provides ideas and resources for using worship to develop and nurture a community of faith. The final section of the book engages preachers in an enhanced “preaching swim” that collaborates with others involved in leading worship. He offers practical insights for participating in the “worship swim.”
Preaching as Worship is a fascinating and important book for every pastor and church leader. It will cause any reader to rethink his or her views on worship and own role in ministry.
There were other significant books on preaching published in 2011. One of those is Engaging Exposition (B&H Academic), written by Danny Akin, Stephen Rummage and Bill Curtis. Reflecting a concern that the church has neglected the faithful preaching of “the whole counsel of God’s Word,” the authors of Engaging Exposition offer an extended treatment of the various elements of studying a passage and preparing an effective expository message on that biblical passage.
The trio offers what it describes as a 3-D approach to the task of preaching. The first element of the process is “Discovery” (written by Curtis), which offers a thorough discussion of the hermeneutical process to be used in studying a passage and determining the key ideas of the passage. The second D (written by Akin) is “Development,” which seeks to give preachers tools for making the move from passage to completed sermon, drawing on the biblical insights gained in the discovery process. The final D (written by Rummage) is “Delivery,” which moves the preacher from the written sermon to the moment of actual delivery, using principles of effective speech communication. One of the strengths of this volume is that unlike so many preaching books it deals extensively with issues relating to sermonic delivery. Engaging Exposition is a useful resource which will offer preachers helpful tools for studying a passage, developing a solid message from that passage and delivering it effectively. That’s all a preacher can ask.
John Koessler’s book Folly, Grace and Power: The Mysterious Act of Preaching (Zondervan) is a rare volume that deals seriously with the issue of the theology of preaching.
Too much contemporary preaching is trivial, Koessler believes, as it attempts to “smooth out the rough edges of the Christian life and offer pat answers to the audience’s problems.” We follow in Fosdick’s steps, attempting to use preaching to “solve the audience’s problems,” when that is not the primary purpose of preaching. In fact, “it is entirely possible that some preaching, if it is true to Scripture, may actually create problems.”
He explores the divine and human dimensions of preaching and discusses the nature of the authority of biblical preaching. He emphasizes the necessity of preachers as those who speak for God, trumpeting “God’s final word by preaching Christ crucified.” Along the way, Koessler offers counsel to preachers in today’s church. He concludes with a reaffirmation of the essential partnership of preaching and theology and reminds us that preaching is an eschatological act—we proclaim the Christ who came and is coming again.
Among other worthwhile volumes on preaching in the past year are:
I Believe I’ll Testify: The Art of African-American Preaching (Westminster John Knox) by Cleophus J. LaRue is a survey of the unique opportunities and challenges of preaching in the black church tradition. Among the interesting observations is his discussion of the difference between black preaching and the traditional white homiletical approaches taught in most seminaries. LaRue urges expanded dialogue between the two traditions. He offers a number of practical observations about the art and craft of preaching.
Preaching Like Calvin: Sermons from the 500th Anniversary Celebration (P&R Publishing), edited by David W. Hall is a collection of sermons, most of which were preached in July 2009 at St. Pierre’s Cathedral in Geneva, Switzerland, in honor of the 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth. St. Pierre’s is where Calvin preached more than 2,000 of his own sermons between 1536 and his death in 1564. Among the preachers represented in the collection are Sinclair Ferguson, Bryan Chapell, Philip Graham Ryken, Ligon Duncan, Derek W.H. Thomas and several more.
Craddock on the Craft of Preaching (Chalice Press) is a collection of outstanding lectures and workshops presented through the years by one of the most influential teachers of homiletics of the past half century. Now retired, Craddock still will be sharing his insights on preaching with current and future generations through this and other significant books on the subject. The volume is edited by Lee Sparks and Kathryn Hayes Sparks.
Preaching and Stewardship (Alban Institute) by Craig A. Satterlee offers a guide to preaching on this critical issue through a series of questions preachers might ask as they prepare such sermons. He includes a section about biblical teaching on stewardship and includes a number of illustrations throughout the volume.
The Beauty of the Word: The Challenge and Wonder of Preaching (Westminster John Knox Press) was written by James C. Howell, senior pastor of Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. As he discusses the various elements of effective preaching, he brings to the task the insights gained through preaching week by week for many years.
Excellence in Preaching (IVP Books) is a study of several contemporary preachers and what makes them effective. The book is written by a British preaching teacher and includes several U.K. preachers who will not be widely known to many U.S. readers, but it also includes U.S. names such as Tim Keller, John Ortberg, John Piper and others.