Paul J. Achtemeier, General Editor, Harper’s Bible Dictionary (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985), 1178 pp., $29.95, cloth.
James B. Prichard, General Editor, The Harper Atlas of the Bible (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1987), 254 pp., $49.95, cloth.
Henry Chadwick and G. R. Evans, Atlas of the Christian Church (New York: Facts on File, 1987), 240 pp., $40.00, cloth.
Somewhere in the dark corners of your library lie those reference books you acquired during student days. Bible handbooks, map sets, and other theological reference materials rest under sermon notes and assorted periodical remnants.
Few reference works evoke instant excitement or eagerness. Most are relegated to dormant existence until the preacher feels the need to draw a route from Calah to Amida (Abrahamic trade route), to identify the Kenites (Genesis 15:19), or to establish the vital issue in the filioque controversy.
On the other hand, surveys indicate a growing interest in reference works among preachers — those who need competent sources for documentation, identification, and illumination. Recent months have seen the release of several important reference volumes, each with a unique purpose and quality.
The publication of major reference materials is not for the faint of heart. More costly than any other major publishing venture, reference materials require intensive editorial supervision, expensive graphic support, and extensive programs of development. In short, any major reference book release represents the culmination of enormous effort and expense. Many, however, fall flat.
This is not true of the three volumes considered in this issue. Each represents a major advance in reference materials in its field, and each will serve well on the preacher’s bookshelf.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary (HBD) represents a major advance in reference materials for biblical study. Latest in a long line of Harper dictionaries, the HBD is the result of over 180 contributors and editors representing many of the best and brightest biblical scholars on the current scene. Indeed, the project represents the combined effort of Harper and Row and the Society of Biblical Literature, the professional society of biblical scholars.
More than one sage preacher has reminded colleagues the congregation comes together to celebrate the gospel, not to hear a detailed exposition of the lives and times of the Jebusites. Nevertheless, the preacher should know who the Jebusites were (Genesis 10:16) and be enriched by a process of sermon preparation which addresses the details of the established text. The HBD is a solid and resourceful partner in this process.
The HBD is encyclopedic in scope, including articles on virtually every person, place, object, theme, and important word found in the biblical text. In addition, major articles are found on every canonical book and several major issues ranging from archaeology to the Apostle Paul.
The format of the HBD facilitates both quick reference and detailed study. Where appropriate, bibliographic suggestions are provided for further reference. Ample photographs and drawings supplement the text.
Though Harper and Row has published several Bible dictionaries in the past, the HBD is a completely new publication, not based on any previous edition. Over 3,700 entries are contained within the volume, including short entries ranging from the Aaronites to Zurishaddai and major articles on subjects requiring extended discussion.
Writers and articles are well matched. Major entries include author designation for bibliographic reference.
Though the Bible reveals timeless truths, the disciplines of biblical interpretation, archaeology, and historical investigation have produced an enormous body of knowledge over the past few years. The HBD represents a solid resource for biblical study.
Seminary and college students will find the HBD a constant companion. A good library for preaching will include more than one Bible dictionary. Nevertheless, the Harper Bible Dictionary should find its way into every preacher’s bookshelf.
The Holy Land, suggests James B. Prichard, “has been mapped more frequently over the centuries than any comparable area of the earth’s surface.” That this is true is not surprising, given the fact that three major world religions stake a geographic claim on this small expanse of rugged terrain.
The Harper Atlas of the Bible (HAB) is a remarkable achievement in an age of cartographic sophistication. Replete with color and compelling graphics, the HAB invites the reader into the texture and contours of the Holy Land.
Formerly Professor of Religious Thought and Curator of Biblical Archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania, James B. Prichard edited the work of over fifty international scholars in the production of this volume. These international specialists range from Shimon Applebaum at Tel Aviv University (formerly of All Souls College, Oxford) to the late Yigael Yadin, famed statesman-archaeologist.
Evangelical New Testament scholar F. F. Bruce of the University of Manchester and Jewish scholar Geza Vermes of Oxford are among the several special editors responsible for sections of the material.
The result of this intensive effort is an atlas likely to serve the church for many years. The technology employed in the cartography is the same as that used in The Times Atlas of World History, a classic in reference works.
The maps are true to the most recent geographical projections and indicate the curvature of the earth in the graphics. More than 168 pages of maps are included — all in four-color reproduction. All significant sites are indicated, with relevant and colorful background information. Routes of migration and locations of biblical events are indicated with effect. The 134 major maps are supplemented by hundreds of color graphics and photographs, each indicating a portion of the biblical heritage.
Biblical preaching divorced from any consciousness of the geographic theater of Old and New Testament events is lackluster. Though the sermon is not in any sense an opportunity for a geography lesson, a knowledge of the context and setting of biblical events and persons will enrich the preacher’s preparation and add color and texture to our understanding of the text. The Harper Atlas of the Bible is a significant resource for the preacher’s library.
To many preachers a survey of church history sounds less than enticing. On the other hand, the new Atlas of the Christian Church (ACC) is precisely that — a fascinating journey through the history of the church from its inception as a small band of Jewish believers to its current estate encompassing over one-third of the earth’s population. Far from laborious reading, the ACC is a volume with great promise and profit.
Edited by Henry Chadwick of Oxford University and G. R. Evans of Cambridge, the ACC is the latest in a series of outstanding atlases published by Facts on File. Both established church historians, Chadwick and Evans have produced a volume of surprising richness and vitality.
The continuity of the believing community is the theme woven throughout the volume, even as the various Christian traditions are revealed in their distinctiveness. The editors attempted “to illustrate both something of the diversity and something of this central continuity with Christianity’s roots.”
The volume includes more than forty major maps, all in color and with rich detail. These range from a map of Paul’s missionary journeys to a graphic indicating Christianity within communist lands.
Cartographic and artistic technologies come together in a pleasing and profitable combination. Rich color photography and reproductions of remarkable quality are found throughout the large-format volume.
The text traces the history of the Christian church from the apostolic era to the contemporary church. All major events in the history of the church are documented and all major traditions of the church receive careful attention.
Found in many trade bookstores, the volume is worthy merely as a collection of art. It is of far greater significance to the preacher, however. The Atlas of the Christian Church is a worthy addition to the preacher’s library and a profitable companion in study and thought.
Concordances, language materials, theological dictionaries, and numerous other reference materials belong in every preacher’s working library. The publishing industry — both trade and religious houses — are producing a new generation of reference materials worthy of the preacher’s serious consideration. The three volumes discussed above are merely representative of the developing body of quality reference materials now available.
William H. Willimon, Preaching About Conflict in the Local Church (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1987), 114 pp., $8.95, paper.
Elizabeth Achtemeier, Preaching About Family Relationships (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1987), 118 pp., $8.95, paper.
Ronald J. Sider and Michael A. King, Preaching About Life in a Threatening World (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1987), 128 pp., $8.95, paper.
Numerous series on aspects of preaching have appeared in recent years. None, however, has taken the focus Westminister Press has chosen for the series “Preaching About ….”
The three books discussed here are the first volumes released in this series. Subsequent volumes will include Preaching About the Needs of Real People by David H. C. Read and Preaching About Crises in the Community by Samuel Proctor. Each volume in the series focuses on a particular preaching situation or congregational constituency.
William H. Willimon, a Preaching Contributing Editor, is no stranger to preachers. Formerly pastor of several United Methodist congregations, Willimon now serves as Minister to the University and Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at Duke University. With a background in both academic and pastoral experience, Willimon writes as one who has experienced congregational conflict as both participant and observer.
“Few of us pastors entered the ministry out of a love of conflict,” Willimon suggests. Nevertheless, any congregation fulfilling its mission is likely to encounter and engender conflict along the way.
Willimon projects a confident role for the pastor in the midst of congregational conflict — a role which often means leadership in identifying a variety of possible alternatives. “A preacher’s role is more often that of opening up a congregation’s vision to the wide array of faithful responses than that of narrowing everything down to the one right thing that ought to be done.”
Willimon identifies preaching as “part of a total pastoral response to congregational conflict.” The pulpit is not the place to settle all conflict, but Willimon is careful to identify an appropriate role for a clear word from the pulpit in conflict situations.
Borrowing from the work of Larry McSwain and William Treadwell, Willimon identifies five pastoral styles preachers often assume during times of conflict: the Problem Solver, the Super Helper, the Power Broker, the Facilitator, and the Fearful Loser.
Conflict represents a congregational opportunity. Willimon conveys a sensitive confidence in the authority of the preacher in the conflict situation. When a pastor addresses congregational crises, “he or she is doing so under the authority of the church. The pastor is there because of certain things that the community needs done.”
Though some ministers find this role of authority uncomfortable, Willimon finds this modesty “inappropriate to the ordained ministry, arising more often from their own need to avoid ministering to the real needs of the congregation than from their feigned sense of humility.”
In the midst of conflict the central role of the preacher is to remind the congregation of the biblical story and its place within the purposes of God. “The preacher decides to minister to a congregational problem through the sermon because, in the preacher’s judgment, this is an appropriate intersection between the church and its book.”
Preaching About Family Relationships represents the intersection of three of Elizabeth Achtemeier’s distinctive areas of interest: preaching, family relationships and biblical exegesis. An accomplished preacher, homiletician and biblical theologian, Achtemeier is well prepared to address the subject of this volume.
The congregation, suggests Achtemeier, has two major areas of personal interest: work and family. “Yet, strangely enough, these two concerns are those most often neglected by the pulpit.”
The pulpit, she avers, has abdicated these concerns to secular culture — psychologists, educators, therapists, and the like. The norm for the Christian, however, must be that found in the Bible. The preacher stands to proclaim and remind the congregation of the biblical notions of family relationships and life together.
“Our task is to preach not ourselves, or our society’s ways, but Jesus Christ as Lord,” she says, “that hearing Him our people may trust and, trusting, may be given the power to live abundant and joyful lives of faithfulness to their God.”
The author identifies four areas of understanding necessary to biblical preaching on family relationships: the biblical text, the biblical context, the lives of the hearers, and their own social contexts.
This social context Achtemeier evaluates with rapier skill. It is a context in which the prevailing norms run counter to the vision of the Gospel. Rampant divorce, homosexuality, sexual “freedom,” broken homes, and a breakdown in the moral consensus mark the current period.
After a brief review of biblical teachings on relevant issues, Achtemeier addresses the issue of “speaking the truth in love.” She suggests a holistic approach within the total life of the congregation. The book includes helpful sections on suggested texts and their function in the community, and the actual construction of messages on family relationships.
Throughout the brief volume the author’s sensitivity and genuine engagement with the issues are readily apparent. “And so to every parishioner sitting out there in front of us on Sunday morning … to every suffering or celebrating soul, we proclaim the gospel of God in his Son, because that gospel means life for our loved people in their homes, and joy, and the peace of God.”
Ronald J. Sider and Michael A. King (Preaching About Life in a Threatening World) believe that preaching should be filled with mystery, yet relevant to concrete social situations as well. The world, they suggest, seems quite threatening to many persons and is, in fact, filled with any number of ominous possibilities and vexing issues. Threats to global peace, widespread poverty, and violence so traumatize many persons that they are not reached by much Christian preaching.
The authors identify much preaching as “opaque,” or unaware of the transcendent possibilities brought to each situation by God. They offer a stern critique of much propositional preaching in favor of a narrative approach. Though propositional preaching is often “opaque,” narrative sermons are more often “transparent” — open to the possibilities brought by God.
Sider and King offer a unique model of wedding a narrative approach to biblical interpretation and preaching to social issues. The goal is “building a biblical house of being” within the worshipping community. True to their Mennonite convictions, the authors challenge the reader to preach genuinely biblical values within the congregation.
Though many preachers will find significant areas of disagreement on issues discussed within the brief volume, all will be enriched by the authors’ commitment to faithful and relevant preaching.
Iain H. Murray, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The First Forty Years (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1982), 394 pp., $17.95, cloth.
D. M. Lloyd-Jones, Evangelistic Sermons (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1983), 294 pp., $9.95, paper.
Few preachers in this century have enjoyed the popularity and influence of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. For many years minister at London’s Westminster Chapel, Lloyd-Jones was a fixture on two continents at Bible conferences and preaching services. His preaching endures through the continued publication of many of his writings — some, in fact, compiled and published now for the first time.
Iain Murray, a former assistant to Lloyd-Jones at Westminster Chapel, has produced the first volume of what will be established as the definitive biography of the great Welsh preacher. A founder of Banner of Truth, Murray is well qualified to produce this considerable volume.
As the sub-title indicates, this volume covers the first forty years of Lloyd-Jones’ life, from his birth in Wales to his call to Westminister as assistant to the famous G. Campbell Morgan.
Murray writes with obvious esteem for Dr. Lloyd-Jones, yet with a trained eye and a careful pen. The life of Lloyd-Jones unfolds as he grows up in the rugged countryside of Wales, dedicates his life to medicine, is trained as a physician, is converted to the claims of the Gospel, and later surrenders to God’s gracious call upon his life as a minister of the Gospel.
Lloyd-Jones was a man of tremendous energy and commitment. These two qualities are apparent throughout this biography. Murray has captured much of the spirit of the man even as he records a detailed chronicle of events and persons related to the story of Lloyd-Jones.
It is Lloyd-Jones himself, however, who is the central focus. Preachers will discover in this volume a challenging model of commitment to the preaching of the Word of God.
In 1981 Mrs. Lloyd-Jones discovered a box filled with manuscripts which proved to be the sermons D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached at his first church at Sandfields, Aberavon, in Wales. It was only during this first period of Lloyd-Jones’ ministry that he wrote his sermons in full manuscript, and the newly discovered sermons were recognized to be of special significance.
Twenty-one of these sermons were published in 1983 in this most interesting volume. In these pages is revealed the emerging preaching style of the young minister and his early commitment to biblical preaching. Each of these sermons is based upon a Gospel text and is an evangelistic message.
The sermons are possessed of tremendous power, a power derived from the biblical texts themselves. Titles such as “Away From Jesus or With Him” and “The Narrowness of the Gospel” indicate the powerful focus of Lloyd-Jones’ preaching. All preachers will read these messages with profit.
Stephen Brown, Heirs with the Prince (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1985), 176 pp., $10.95, cloth.
Stephen Brown, No More Mr. Nice Guy: Saying Goodbye to Doormat Christianity (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1986), 231 pp., $14.95, cloth.
Stephen Brown, senior pastor of Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church in metropolitan Miami, Florida, is one of the most effective communicators on the contemporary scene. A Contributing Editor of Preaching, Brown has established a solid reputation for solid biblical preaching.
Both of these current volumes represent the fruit of Brown’s pulpit ministry. Each indicates the energy behind Stephen Brown’s biblical preaching and his characteristically creative approach to life situations.
Heirs with the Prince is a powerful collection of messages on the heritage believers share with the Savior, a legacy often unknown and untapped.
No More Mr. Nice Guy is the brusque title of an engaging series of messages on confident and bold Christianity. Brown offers a clear call to committed discipleship and a lifestyle contrary to secular society’s conception of the Christian.
Book Notes
Alan Walker, Evangelistic Preaching (Grand Rapids: Francis Asbury Press/Zondervan, 1988), 110 pp., paper.
Alan Walker makes a case for evangelistic preaching as a strategic part of the preacher’s work. He places special emphasis on the need to interpret the gospel within the cultural context of those being addressed. He includes two evangelistic sermons as models. Walker is Director of World Evangelism for the World Methodist Council.
John R. Brokhoff, Preaching the Parables (Lima, Ohio: C.S.S. Publishing, 1987), 123 pp., paper.
This small volume will provide real help to preachers as they deal with the eight parables from Mark included here. Following a brief introduction to parabolic material, Brokhoff takes each parable in succession, offering exegetical insights, suggestions on preaching values and approaches, and illustrative materials. Brokhoff is Emeritus Professor of Homiletics at Candler School of Theology, Emory University.
James Montgomery Boice, Genesis: An Expositional Commentary, Volume III (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1987), 366 pp., cloth.
Boice, senior pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, is widely-known for his expositional preaching ministry. This volume, which deals with the life of Joseph, deals with a variety of issues found in the closing pages of Genesis and offers ideas and illustrations which will be helpful to the preacher preparing messages on these texts.
Jerry Schmalenberger, Stewards of Creation (Lima, Ohio: C.S.S. Publishing, 1987), 56 pp., paper.
Sermons on stewardship call out the best (and worst) in preachers. This brief collection of six stewardship sermons will provide useful insights and illustrations for your own preparation of such messages. Schmalenberger is senior pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Des Moines, Iowa.

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