Text-Driven Preaching: God’s Word at the Heart of Every Sermon
Edited by Daniel Akin, David Allen and Ned Mathews
B&H Academic, 2010. Paper, 315 pp.
In recent years, a flurry of outstanding books has been published on the topic of expository preaching. A team of Southern Baptist pastors and professors now add their own contribution to the field with their new book Text-Driven Preaching.
Why another book on expository preaching? In David Allen’s Introduction to the volume, he asserts that they are attempting to make a distinction between “text-driven preaching” and much of what flies under the banner of expository preaching these days, which “is not really worthy of the name.”
The spiritual anemia of much of today’s church, says Allen, is the result of “the loss of biblical content in so much of contemporary preaching.” Too much preaching, he believes, is horizontal rather than vertical—”man-centered preaching that appeals to so-called felt needs rather than what exalts God before the people as the One who alone can meet genuine needs.”
So what is text-driven preaching? Allen writes: “A text-driven sermon is a sermon that develops a text by explaining, illustrating and applying its meaning. Text-driven preaching stays true to the substance of the text, the structure of the text and the spirit of the text.”
Instead of spending time on side issues and majoring on minors, “Text-driven preachers refuse to let the congregation walk away without understanding what God is saying to them through the text.”
The chapters, written by a varied cast of characters, are of varying quality, though most are solid. One chapter, on the application of Aristotelian rhetoric to preaching, seems to be a side road leading away from the primary focus of the book; coming at the beginning of the book, it gives the collection an oddly unfocused launch. However, most of the remaining chapters stay closer to the main theme of the volume.
Several chapters stand out in their value to preaching ministers. David Allen’s chapter on “Preparing a Text-Driven Sermon” offers helpful insights on the development of biblical sermons. He reminds listeners, however, “Text-driven preaching does not entail enslavement to a deductive sermonic form nor artificial outlining techniques such as a three-point structure and alliteration. A good text-driven sermon that explains the meaning of the text can be couched in a variety of forms.”
Another useful chapter is Hershael York’s contribution on “Communication Theory and Text-Driven Preaching.” York walks through a communication model and describes the implications for the preacher. York reminds the reader: “The preacher whose sermons are lashed to the text cannot be content to present lexical and cultural analysis arranged in homiletical fashion. He must be convinced that, like the biblical prophets, he can use behaviors, illustrations and even nonverbal techniques to fulfill his goal of faithfully presenting the content of God’s Word to his audience. He uses the gate of the heart—that is, the emotions of the audience—to reach the mind.”
Daniel Akin’s chapter on sermon application is worth the cost of the book. Akin has written and spoken extensively on the issue of application, and this chapter collects much of that material in one place. As Akin notes: “Changed lives is what we’re after, and nothing less will satisfy the faithful expositor.”
Text-Driven Preaching is a useful addition to the growing body of books on biblical preaching published in recent years.
By Alyce M. McKenzie
Westminster John Knox Press, 2010. Paper, 180 pp.
Preachers seeking to enhance the creativity and expressiveness of their messages will benefit from this new book. Subtitled Tips from Top Writers on Crafting Creative Sermons, the author has collected insights from a variety of novelists, including Frederick Buechner (who is also a preacher), Annie Dillard, Stephen King and others. McKenzie is Professor of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University.
The Church Awakening
By Charles Swindoll
FaithWords, 2010. Hardcover, 304 pp.
This issue of Preaching contains a sermon excerpted from Chuck Swindoll’s newest book The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call for Renewal (Thomas Nelson). In this new volume, Swindoll examines the challenges the church faces in the 21st century and urges leaders toward a new direction that will enable the church to again become a strong, transformational movement.