David P. Gushee and Robert H. Long, A Bolder Pulpit: Reclaiming the Moral Dimension of Preaching (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1998). ISBN 0-8170- 1287-7. Paper, 203 pages.
Authentic preaching seeks not only to change the mind but to change the heart and the behavior. A Bolder Pulpit grows out of a conviction on the part of the authors that today’s pulpit does too little to address the moral behavior of individuals and society.
It is a unique volume in that it is written by both an ethicist and a pastor. David Gushee is Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy at Union University in Jackson, TN, while Robert Long is pastor of the 6,000-member Walnut Street Baptist Church in Louisville, KY. This partnership offers an approach that provides a helpful perspective representing both theoretical and practical concerns.
From the outset, Gushee and Long stress that the book’s purpose is “to assist ministers in the preparation of sermons related to the Christian moral life.” They express concern that “the moral dimension of the gospel tends to be neglected or badly mishandled from the pulpit,” either because ministers tend to shy away from addressing particular social issues (such as racism or abortion) or have not been trained to deal with such issues effectively. They cite the lack of literature which addresses the topic, and the failure of most seminary training to prepare ministers for such a task.
While recognizing that preaching on moral issues is not wholly absent in the contemporary pulpit, they argue that “the contrast between the moral witness of the Scriptures and the moral proclamation from the pulpit is striking. It is a deafening and profoundly troubling silence.” This silence take many forms, from the absence of “moral vision” in preaching to the frequent exclusion from preaching of “morally focused” biblical texts from the prophets and the words of Jesus. They also argue that even when such texts are preached, the texts are often spiritualized so as to overlook the striking moral implications of the biblical material.
The authors proceed to identify what they see as the moral task of Christian preaching, laying out “a kind of moral grid” for the preacher’s use. They discuss ways to plumb the depths of various types of biblical literature in addressing moral concerns, citing the kinds of “moral norms” which must be addressed in order to effectively deal with the moral dimensions of scripture.
Following three solid chapters in which they explore the issues, the authors provide a selection of eighteen sermons which offer models of preaching which faithfully addresses the moral dimension of scripture. This section offers a selection of interesting sermons which address a variety of moral concerns and issues.
I would disagree with them at one point regarding the issue of sermon form. By using Harold Bryson’s definition of expository preaching as a series of sermons drawn from a Bible book which may use varied homiletical forms and “any amount of Scripture for a text,” they adopt a definition which would not be generally accepted by many homileticians who deal with expository preaching.
Gushee and Long’s resulting dismissal of the significance of sermonic structure as “one of the least important considerations for the preacher” leads them astray. I would agree with Gushee and Long that content is primary, but the structure is vital in developing a sermon that communicates effectively.
That modest disagreement aside, A Bolder Pulpit is an engaging and insightful work which should be read by any preacher who takes seriously the task of fully bringing the gospel to bear on our contemporary culture.
Craig A. Loscalzo, Apologetic Preaching: Proclaiming Christ to a Postmodern World (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000). ISBN 0-8308-1575-9. Paper, 137 pages.
In this excellent little book, Craig Loscalzo talks about questions every pastor must ask these days: how do you preach to people who seem oblivious to morality, consumed by tolerance, and drawn to every spiritual fad that passes through town? And that’s just inside the church!
Apologetic Preaching is a well-written, practical book by a former seminary professor who now pastors the Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. Sunday after Sunday he confronts the same danger that faces most pastors at the beginning of the 21st century: “We live and preach between times. The dogmatism of the modern era’s pulpit has given way to ambivalence in pulpits of the postmodern era. In the presence of political correctness on one side and the fear of sounding like a rabid fundamentalist on the other, preachers skulk from their studies to the pulpit, wide-eyed and confused ….”
Loscalzo addresses the various trends and realities that have been used to label our era “postmodern” and argues that effective preaching must understand the prevailing milieu if it is to be effective. He observes, “Preaching that recognizes and addresses the shifting idioms offers the world timeless good news of God’s grace, love and provision.” He emphasizes that preaching in our culture must be “apologetic” in “making a case for the gospel in all its scandalous reality.”
Many of the chapter headings demonstrate the ways in which Loscalzo addresses some of the key issues in postmodern culture: Proclaiming Mystery in an Age of Information; Proclaiming Hope in an Era of Skepticism; Proclaiming Confidence in a Time of Doubt; and Proclaiming Truth in a Climate of Relativism. He also provides a chapter dealing with some of the pragmatic considerations in planning to do apologetic preaching.
As Loscalzo notes, “With many presuppositions about Christian faith being called into question, even by people within the Christian community, the significance of faithful and apologetic proclamation of Jesus as God’s ultimate revelation to humankind cannot be overstated.” For preachers who share that commitment, this is a book which will help you think through the issues and help you preach more effectively to a postmodern culture.
BookNotes
Richard Allen Bodey, editor, The Voice from the Cross (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2000). ISBN 0-8254-2064-4. Paper, 104 pages.
The preaching of the cross characterizes much of the greatest Christian preaching. This slim volume, originally published in 1990 and now reissued by Kregel, contains sermons on the seven last words from the cross.
The sermons come from a selection of outstanding preachers, including Warren Wiersbe, Herschel Hobbs, Paul Rees, and Lewis Drummond. Preachers who plan a series on “The Seven Words” — or who simply plan to preach on one of these texts — will be wise to consult the fine sermons contained in this book.
Charles B. Bugg, Preaching & Intimacy (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 1999). ISBN 1-57312-263-7. paper, 146 pages.
Subtitled “Preparing the message and the messenger,” this book offers a quality introduction to the issue of preparing to preach. Primary emphasis is placed on the personal and spiritual preparation of the preacher rather than on the preparation of the sermon itself. Brief sermon excerpts are also provided; the preachers are not identified. (It would have been nice to have Bugg include one or more of his own sermons to demonstrate his reflection on the issues discussed.) Bugg is Chafin Professor of Preaching at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, VA.
Calvin Miller, The Christ We Knew (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2000). ISBN 0-8054-9415-4. Hardcover, 194 pages.
I’m always interested in new books by Calvin Miller, one of our Contributing Editors for Preaching and one of the most creative preachers/writers on the evangelical scene. This new volume features excerpts from the gospels and accompanying devotional commentary by Miller, who serves as Professor of Preaching at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, AL. The biblical passages are drawn from the new Holman Christian Standard Bible, a new translation being developed by the Southern Baptist publisher. A beautiful volume, this would be an excellent gift book.
Rick Ezell, Hitting a Moving Target (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications 1999). ISBN 0-8254-2528-x. Paper, 157 pages.
Rick Ezell is a frequent contributor to Preaching, and this excellent book deals with preaching to the changing needs of a church. Senior Pastor of Naperville (IL) Baptist Church, Ezell offers insights and resources to help pastors more effectively target their messages, then hit the target Sunday after Sunday. Both new and experienced preachers will find helpful ideas and useful resources to use in their own ministries.
Robert Stephen Reid, Preaching Mark (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 1999). ISBN 0-8272-2958-5. Paper, 199 pages.
This substantial volume offers a superb introduction to the themes and structure of the gospel of Mark, and offers helpful insights in preaching this biblical material. In addition to his own treatment of the gospel, Reid provides several model sermons which illustrate how to approach the text; the preachers represent primarily a mainline Protestant perspective. Reid, who is an ordained minister in the American Baptist Churches, is Scholar-in-Residence at University Place Presbyterian Church in Tacoma, WA, and is senior lecturer at both University of Washington and St. Martin’s College.
Richard May hue, Fight the Good Tight (Christian Focus Publications Ltd., Scotland, 1999). ISBN 1-85792-470-3. Paper, 192 pages.
Mayhue is Dean of Studies at The Master’s Seminary in southern California, and this brief volume is a collection of sermons on various Old Testament characters, including Solomon, Jonah, Eve, Saul, Elijah, Moses, Joseph, Job, Ruth and Daniel. If you enjoyed the point-counterpoint articles on biographical sermons in this issue of Preaching, you’ll enjoy seeing the examples provided here by by Mayhue. (For more information on this British publisher see their web site: www.christianfocus.com)

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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