four books, four paragraphs

Eclectic. Always liked that word. Pop across to the on-line dictionary and it means 'deriving ideas, style, or tastes from a broad and diverse range of sources'. I like being eclectic when it comes to reading books on preaching. Here are four which I've enjoyed so far in 2018.

Two of the first volumes in The Artistry of Preaching cover the exact skills which I find most absent among those who wave the exposition flag the most vigorously. The importance of using illustrations and then harvesting them from your own everyday life; and the importance of a 'prevailing image', recognising that the sermon will sink into the ear-heart-mind more effectively if it also sinks into the imagination. In Preaching in Pictures, Peter Jonker makes a case for 'the controlling image' - to be crafted with the same care as the 'big idea', or the proposition.

As I gaze up at my bookshelves, the silver of the New Studies in Biblical Theology series often catches my eye and as it does so, my mind wanders across to dreamland and the thought of a sabbatical where I sit down and read each one of them. I love this series! [NB: the picture below is not taken from my bookshelf (I wish), but the IVP website].

In my determination to strengthen my 'theology of word' as a trainer of preachers, Jonathan Griffith's Preaching in the New Testament was on my hit list. It is a series of exegetical studies around central passages in the New Testament which address preaching. While the decision to limit himself to just 3 of the original Greek words seems a bit curious (Kittel, for example, opts for 33!), the stroll through passages in 2 Timothy, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians and Hebrews is so simple and clear. As is often the case with this series, the 'Summary and Conclusions' chapter leaves me thinking, 'I need to make this required reading for a course.'

In March I was at a conference in Singapore at Trinity Theological College in Singapore, listening to Dr Mark Chan do a fabulous session on a theology of preaching. He mentioned Jonathan Leeman's Reverberation and how in preaching, the word is not meant to sound just the once in the sermon, but we are to preach in a way that helps it reverberate, or echo, throughout the life of the people as they gather and scatter as the church. Love that image - and this book. I keep revising my two 'top ten' book lists, one for beginning preachers and one for experienced preachers ... and I am going to need to make space for this book in that first list. It is that helpful.
From the simple to the sublime (or, the clear to the complex!). As a teacher, I am so conscious of the questions I can't answer well, made worse by the fact that I am not good at thinking-on-my-feet. One of those questions is, "When is it that the preaching of my sermon becomes the word of God for my people, if at all?". It has gnawed away for years. Earlier this year I waded through a PhD thesis that asks and answers that very question: Sam Chan's Preaching as the Word of God. It is complex (for example, he uses 'speech act theory' to resolve the issue) but he is an exceptional writer and the argument, as it builds, can be followed by a thoughtful reader.

On reflection, maybe this is not my best eclectic work on books on preaching! Give myself a B- for a good effort. Afterall, three of the four come from a very similar theological stable. Never mind. Each one is well worth reading.

nice chatting



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