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Letters to My Students: On Preaching

The health of the church rises or falls with the pulpit. It isn’t wild or controversial to say that preaching is God’s divinely ordained means for communicating his Word, nourishing his church, and for redeeming a people for himself. In Letters to My Students: On Preaching Jason K. Allen (president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and associate professor for preaching and pastoral ministry) writes out of his experience both as a preacher, and a teacher of aspiring preachers. With chapters like Eight Tips for Beginning Preachers, Preparing Your Sermon, and A Final Checklist Before You Preach Allen has provided a resource which is highly practical, helpfully specific, and undoubtedly better equips every preacher to rightly interpret and expositionally bring to bear God’s Word upon the lives of God’s people. Mission accomplished.

Here are some of my favourite quotes from the book.

A good reminder about the certainty of calling:

In Lectures to My Students, Charles Spurgeon argued, “The first sign of the heavenly calling is an intense, all-absorbing desire for the work. In order to be a true call to the ministry, there must be an irresistible, overwhelming craving and raging thirst for telling others what God has done to our own souls.”
Those who have been most used of God carried this burden of the soul.

Qualifications aren’t entry requirements:

…the 1 Timothy 3 qualifications do not simply represent a one-time threshold to cross. Rather, they are a lifestyle for you to maintain, a character for you to cultivate, and an ongoing accountability to God’s Word and God’s people.

Gospel preaching should awaken sinners to salvation and mature them into Christlikeness:

The sermon is to impart words of life—words of new life to the unbeliever and words of continual renewal and growth for the Christian.

An important reminder about the essential ministry of the Holy Spirit:

You can draft a sermon manuscript, but only the Holy Spirit can make a sermon.

Work at every section of your sermon:

The goal for the sermon’s introduction is simple. You should desire the introduction to be so compelling that if you were to stop speaking after introducing your sermon, your listeners would insist that you resume it.

Expositional preaching is to preach the text. While it can be more than this, it should never be less:

Faithful expository preaching can take on different flavors—depending on the gifting, experience, and style of the preacher; the genre of the text; and the relative maturity and receptivity of the congregation—and still be faithful to the biblical text.

Preaching authoritatively doesn’t require red-faced, pulpit-pounding displays of thespianism. Authority does not rest in voice projection, cadence, or inflection, and certainly not intimidation or an aggressive demeanor. Rather, your authority is derived from a clear interpretation and proclamation of the Word of God.

Expositional preaching most matures your congregation:

In every church there will be a trickle-down effect from the pulpit to the pew. Over time, for better or worse, churches tend to reflect the personalities and passions of their pastor. The church that receives a steady diet of biblical exposition will grow in their knowledge of the Bible and in their confidence to study, practice, and teach it.

Finally, preach Christ. Always Christ:

Christian preachers ought to preach Christ-centered and Christ-exalting sermons. If a rabbi could preach my sermon, I still have more work to do. In our world of superficial spirituality and ambient religiosity, opaque God talk is not sufficient. If you have preached a sermon without featuring Jesus, then you haven’t preached a Christian sermon.

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