Tony Merida lays out a simple challenge to his fellow preachers in this book: If we want to be effective in our proclamation, we must be faithful—faithful in our devotion to a triune God, faithful in our treatment of God’s Word and faithful in our commitment to understand and connect with our own generation.
As a relatively young preacher himself, Merida is particularly concerned about “the younger generation of preachers who face the pressures of performance-driven, man-centered and shallow Christianity.” By contrast, he wants preachers to root their ministry in something deeper. “Faithful preaching,” Merida writes, “is the responsible, passionate and authentic declaration of the Christ-exalting Scriptures, by the power of the Spirit, for the glory of the triune God.”
Merida makes explicit his preference for expository preaching, which he defines as “the exegetical and Spirit-driven process of explaining and applying the meaning of a particular text or texts for the purpose of transforming people into the image of Christ.” While not insisting it is the only form that can be legitimately used, he does believe the ideal model for growing disciples is systematic, verse-by-verse preaching through biblical books.
In the first major section of the book, Merida argues that faithful preaching, as with all ministry, is based on a passionate quest for the glory of God—to see God’s glory in our own lives and to have a hunger for our people to see His glory. Too many pastors, he believes, “have lost their vision of God’s majesty personally.”
Faithful preaching also requires a high view of Scripture, a commitment to preach Christ from all of Scripture and recognition that our preaching is dependent on the power and direction of the Holy Spirit.
In the next major section, Merida offers a series of steps for preparing effective expository sermons (including guidelines for each):
• Study the text
• Unify the redemptive theme
• Construct an outline
• Develop the functional elements
• Add an introduction and conclusion
The third major section of the book is an important one, as Merida goes deeper into the spiritual life of the preacher. Arguing that we must train ourselves for godliness, he observes, “The call to preach is a call to enter God’s gym for God’s glory. We must train personally, daily, and faithfully.” Our healthy diet will consist of the nourishment that comes from consistent private study of God’s Word. (He encourages memorization of and meditation on Scripture.) Faithfulness also requires spiritual discipline in the form of reading Scripture, prayer, fellowship and other elements.
Merida calls preachers to lives of personal holiness and integrity, balanced by recognition of God’s ultimate sovereignty. He offers an important reminder and encouragement: “You are not sovereign. Therefore, the success of your ministry does not depend simply upon human wisdom and cleverness. It is dependent upon God. Allow the sovereignty of God to bring you comfort and encouragement in your pursuit of godliness and in the trials of ministry.”
The final major section focuses on issues relating to effectively communicating biblical truth in today’s culture. Merida reminds us that, “while we may not add to the power of the sermon with impressive speaking skills, [because] the power is in the Word and Spirit, we can hinder the power of the Word coming through us by poor, distracting speaking habits.” Thus, it is important to strengthen one’s speaking skills and style “so the Word will go forth unhindered.”
Merida offers a helpful chapter on preaching and contextualization. He notes that “The tension we face as biblical preachers is one of contending and contextualizing. On the one hand, we face the burden of contending for the faith in a culture that resists truth claims. On the other hand, we face the burden of preaching the Bible to an increasingly biblically illiterate and multi-cultural society.” He offers useful insights for becoming “expository evangelists” in today’s culture.
Although it seems a bit out of place, the closing chapter offers a brief survey of the history of preaching as a reminder that we stand on the shoulders of giants. “My prayer,” says Merida, “is for our generation to follow the example of these greater periods of preaching.”
In Faithful Preaching, Tony Merida provides us with an excellent introduction to the calling and task of preaching God’s Word in today’s world. This will be a wonderful guide for young preachers and an encouraging reinforcement for veteran pastors.