Skeptical of Expository Preaching? Think again
Editor’s note: This book review is taken from the recent issue of Credo Magazine, “Justification: The Doctrine On Which the Church Stands or Falls.”
Preaching: A Biblical Theology (Crossway, 2013) is a new volume in the world of homiletics, and hopefully its effect will be a lasting one. Jason C. Meyer serves as a gracious, but formidable attorney making his case for an expositional approach as the preferred method for the vast majority of preaching from Scripture today. Meyer roots his case in a conviction that “the whole Bible alone can give a holistic answer to what preaching is” (14).
Out of that conviction, the reader is taken on a journey surveying the entirety of Scripture to see a paradigm of “the ministry of the word.” This paradigm is described as stewarding the word, heralding the word, and encountering God through his word. It’s the thoroughness of this holistic approach that is perhaps the book’s greatest strength.
Meyer’s first section provides an overview of how he sees that paradigm function in Scripture. Then, in the second section he dives deep, surveying redemptive history to see eleven “paradigm shifts in the ministry of the word”, each an important expression of the stewardship of the Word. He concludes with a third section that applies this paradigm to preaching today.
Through this holistic look at preaching, a broad range of readers could be served very well by Preaching, including:
- the convinced: those already convinced of the primacy of expository preaching
- the skeptical: those preferring to make other preaching methods more central
- the weary: those currently weary in the preaching task
- the future preacher: those who may be engaged in future preaching ministry
For the convinced, there is a feast in Meyer’s book. From helpful practical tips to a wonderful survey of preaching literature, Preaching can be a “go to” resource in many ways. For instance, Meyer’s reminder to share the main point, show the main point, and shepherd the congregation with that main point is a wonderfully simple but profound one. Even more importantly, there is a cumulative effect as one reads eleven examples of stewardship throughout the Bible, such that the great privilege and holy responsibility of preaching gets cemented further into the soul.
For the skeptical, Preaching provides healthy engagement with the question of method. Meyer also provides an even-handed presentation of the strengths of topical preaching, arguing for a real (though limited) place for topical preaching in the teaching diet of a church. Unfortunately, the truly skeptical may tune out before the lengthy stewarding > heralding > encountering survey of redemptive history is complete. This is a slight detraction, though there is still much benefit for those in the more skeptical camp.
For the weary, much help could be derived from Preaching. Where the focus in a typical homiletics book might fall on the “how to,” Meyer includes a healthy dose of the “what” and “why” of preaching. In doing so, Meyer provides real potential to sustain a preacher with joy and purpose in the task of preaching. That sustaining benefit for the weary will require working through and wrestling with a lengthy survey of redemptive history before it is truly felt, but it is well worth the effort and regular review.
For the future preacher, Meyer’s book should be required reading. Any aspiring pastor needs to wrestle with the holy responsibility of rightly stewarding God’s word. Preaching will help them do just that, perhaps like no other recent work.
That being said, two areas of potential improvement could have made it an even stronger volume. One area is in the structure. The book is clear in its structure, and Meyer provides helpful guidance for how to best benefit from Preaching. But, the steward > herald > encounter paradigm isn’t clearly or entirely carried through into the address of preaching today. The connections are stated, but some of the powerful cumulative help from the survey of redemptive history seems to be left behind in the third section.
The other area of potential improvement is in the sections of application. To be sure, there is application, like the sober call to flee sexual immorality in light of the fearful examples of David and Solomon. One might wish, however, for more sustained application at times. For instance, the teasing out of the implications of God equipping the called (Moses) and not calling the equipped, or of the implications today of a false stewardship, or of the sustaining hope of a faithful stewardship even when it doesn’t appear to be as fruitful as one would like, would strengthen the effect of what is an already very strong and very helpful book.
In summary, however, Preaching is a book that can bring much profit to the reader’s soul—and much help to the preacher’s preaching—to God’s glory and the good of his church.
Tab Trainor, Pastor, Grace Church, San Diego
Read the recent issue of Credo Magazine today:
Justification: The Doctrine on which the Church Stands or Falls
While we could point to many different factors that led the sixteenth century Protestant Reformers to break from Rome, perhaps one that would be at the very top of the list is the doctrine of justification by faith alone. For Luther and Calvin, this doctrine is the very hinge on which the Christian religion turns. In part this is because sola fide is what sets Protestants apart. While every other religion puts something of man into the equation, Protestantism removes man’s works from the justification formula altogether. Therefore, the “sola” in sola fide makes all the difference in the world.
With over 2,000 years of church history in our rear view mirror, it appears that sola fide is a doctrine that comes under discussion in every generation. Our generation is no exception. Much dialogue continues over the New Perspective on Paul, Protestant and Catholic statements of agreement, and the relationship between justification and the Christian life. In this issue I am proud to welcome some of the finest thinkers on the subject in order to better understand what Scripture says about how sinners can be made right with a holy God.
Contributors include Thomas Schreiner, Michael Allen, Michael Horton, Philip Ryken, J.V. Fesko, Matthew Barrett, Korey Maas, Guy Waters, Brian Vickers, Fred Zaspel, and many others.