Harold T. Bryson, Expository Preaching: The Art of Preaching Through a Book of the Bible (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1995), 448 pages, hardcover, $29.99.
Expository preaching is one of the most frequently cited and little understood concepts in the homiletical world. Definitions abound, as do misunderstandings of the nature of authentic exposition. While one more book surely won’t answer all the questions, Harold Bryson’s volume goes a long way to helping preachers develop more effective expository sermons.
Bryson spent many years teaching preaching at New Orleans Baptist Seminary, and followed that role by serving as Preaching and Worship Consultant for the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board, leading conferences and workshops for pastors across the nation. More recently he has become Professor of Preaching and Director of the Institute of Christian Ministry at Mississippi College.
The author makes the case for biblical exposition, reminding us that, “Opening the Bible to others necessitates faithfulness to the biblical text of the ancient world. The preacher who wants to expose truth from a text needs to think back to the situation of the biblical writers in their history, geography, culture, and language … The authentic expositor brings out of Scripture what is there and does not put into the text what he thinks might be there.”
Bryson points out that expository preaching requires fashioning a “hermeneutical arch” which requires “studying the then of the text and moving to the now of the text.” Says Bryson: “The authentic expositor manages the past and the present simultaneously; he seeks to grasp what God said so he can open to others what God says.”
After a helpful historical survey of the whole concept of biblical exposition, Bryson cites misconceptions about expository preaching along the way to arriving at his own definition: “Expository preaching is the art of preaching a series of sermons, either consecutive or selective, from a Bible book.” I must confess I find Bryson’s definition (and defense of it) the weakest part of the book, because it implies expository preaching is defined more by its setting (a series) than its form or content. His definition also places Bryson outside the basic understanding of expository preaching as taught and practiced by leading evangelical seminaries today. (My own favored pattern is consecutive preaching from a biblical book, but I am convinced such continuity is not required for authentic exposition to take place.)
Having said all that, the remainder of the book is filled with outstanding insights about preaching biblical sermons. Bryson offers a meaty discussion of the kind of biblical study required for expository preaching, along with ideas for plotting a sermon series from a biblical book. One of the great tools a young preacher can acquire is the ability to plan and develop sermon series, and Bryson’s assistance in this area make his book a valuable addition to any preacher’s library. He offers practical hermeneutical insights for approaching a text for preaching and interpreting it in a contemporary setting. A major portion of the book discusses methods for approaching and preaching various literary genres in scripture.
Bryson’s book will not only find a place in college and seminary classrooms; it will find a welcome place in the library of any preacher seeking to preach the Word more effectively.
Robert H. Spain, Getting Ready to Preach (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996), 104 pages, paper.
In this slim volume, Robert Spain seeks to encourage preachers to work more effectively and efficiently in their task of proclamation. The title is self-explanatory: the majority of the text offers counsel for the preacher in preparing to stand in the pulpit.
Spain, a former pastor and now Bishop in the United Methodist Church, appropriately begins with the preacher’s divine calling. Ministry is worthless unless God has placed His call upon the minister. Spain quotes Pierce Harris: “The ministry is a poor profession but it’s a tremendous calling.”
Ten “roadblocks to effectiveness” in preaching are cited, including: isolation, callousness, popularity, procrastination, busyness, dryness, compromise, attitude, Holy of Holies (“our familiarity with holy things in general that we who are clergy touch and live near every day”), and sin. The treatment of each topic is brief — a bit superficial at times — and often leaves the reader wishing for a deeper analysis than this brief volume provides. One often wishes that Spain, an experienced pastor, would have “dug a little deeper” in exploring issues of such concern to fellow pastors.
The author describes the preacher ‘s office and needed equipment — something that may be helpful for beginning pastors — and discusses keys to successful work habits, such as “Set Your Priorities Carefully.” Once again, readers may be frustrated at the lack of depth; for example, they are told they need to set priorities but receive no suggestions or ideas for how to go about that task.
Spain suggests several ideas for creating illustration and sermon files. Probably the strongest part of the book is the chapter on designing a sermon plan; here Spain offers detailed ideas and examples that will help preachers in considering their own planning process.
The few pages dealing with the actual sermon preparation process are so brief as to be nearly useless; they would have been better used in expanding on the ideas earlier in the book, and leave sermon construction to another book.
As a book for beginning preachers, Spain’s text has much to commend it. It will be a helpful introduction to a number of concepts. Experienced preachers, however, will find it useful mostly for the collection of interesting illustrations scattered through its pages.
Book Notes
Richard L. Eslinger, editor, Intersections: Post-Critical Studies in Preaching (Grand Rapids: Wm. B Eerdmans, 1994), 156 pages, paper, $12.99.
Intersections is a fascinating collection of essays by a diverse team of mainline scholars. The title reflects the interplay of homiletics, theology and literary criticism which takes place in these essays, including chapters by Thomas Long, Tom Troeger, David Buttrick and others. My favorite was the concluding essay, “Toward a Hermeneutics of the Solo Savior: Dirty Harry and Romans 5-8” by New Testament scholar Bernard Brandon Scott — a fascinating discussion of some of the mythological ideas implicit in the “Dirty Harry” films of Clint Eastwood, contrasting those ideas with Pauline concepts.
James O. Gilliom, Walking on Water: Sermons on the Miracles of Jesus (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), 96 pages, paper.
The latest edition in Abingdon’s Protestant Pulpit Exchange series contains fourteen sermons which use miracle stories to teach important spiritual truths to contemporary congregations. Walking on Water offers interesting and helpful sermon models for preaching ministers.
Gilliom is pastor of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Des Moines, Iowa.
Barbara Brown Taylor, Gospel Medicine (Boston: Cowley Publications, 1995), 161 pages, paper.
Barbara Brown Taylor plays a unique role as one of the few nationally-known models of women in the pulpit. As such, she stays busy as a writer and lecturer — she has been a frequent contributor to The Protestant Hour radio program — in addition to serving as rector of Grace-Calvary Episcopal Church in Clarkesville, GA. Gospel Medicine is a collection of her sermons which demonstrates her gifted handling of both the biblical text and contemporary language. For many readers, the biggest frustration with her sermons will be that they end too quickly!
D. Stuart Briscoe, Expository Nuggets from 1 Corinthians and Expository Nuggets from the Epistles (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995), 128 pages and 160 pages, paper, $9.99 each.
Stuart Briscoe is one of the most gifted communicators in the church today, and preachers who confront the biblical text week after week will welcome the assistance of this pastoral mentor through these first two volumes in the “Stuart Briscoe Expository Outlines” series from Baker. Each sermon is presented in outline form, demonstrating the approach to the text taken by this contemporary preacher-teacher. Each book contains more than 50 outlines “or “expository nuggets” which will provide useful exegetical insights to other preachers.
Briscoe is pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, WI, and is a Contributing Editor to Preaching.
Ruth C. Duck, Finding Words for Worship (Louisville: Westminster-John Knox Press, 1995), 145 pages, paper.
Leaders who are called on to write prayers, hymns and other liturgical resources will find this a helpful book. The book is targeted to mainline churches. The one chapter on preaching is too brief to be particularly helpful; Duck would have been wiser to leave such a significant topic to another book and kept the focus of this volume on non-homiletical resources.
Duck is Associate Professor of Worship at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL.

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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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