Preach: Theology Meets Practice

Last week I read through Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert’s book on preaching called Preach: Theology Meets Practice (kindle version). This was a great introduction into preaching, with some great insights for long time communicators.

One of the more helpful things in this book is how they walk through the practice after laying out the theology of preaching. The last part of interacting with each other’s sermons is worth the price of the book alone.

Two things that challenged me was to continue planning in advanced the sermons I preach (right now at Revolution, we’ve sketched out sermons through 2015) and to wait on jumping into commentaries.

I appreciate the outline that they lay out in the book to use, I’ve always been partial to the way Andy Stanley outlines his sermons in Communicating for a Change. I find that way is more helpful for me.

I am glad that they laid out using one big idea instead of points. This brings more power and focus to a sermon and makes it more memorable to the listeners.

Here are some questions the authors say a pastor should answer in a sermon about a text:

  • How does the teaching in this point fit into the salvation-historical progression of the biblical story line?
  • What does this text say to the non-Christian?
  • What does it say to the larger society and to policy-makers?
  • What does it say about Jesus?
  • How does it apply to the individual Christian?
  • Does it say anything in particular about issues of work or family?
  • What does it say to my own local church?

The section on reviewing a sermon, giving and receiving godly and ungodly criticism is gold for preachers. One of the hardest things to do is review your sermon or get feedback on it that goes past, “That was amazing!”

Here are a few things I highlighted in the book:

  • It’s far easier to come up with a witty, biting criticism than to preach an entire sermon.
  • Regardless of what people want or even think they need, the truth is that they need to hear the Word of God being opened and explained and applied to their hearts and wills. And that happens through expositional preaching.
  • When God creates and gives life, He does so through His Word.
  • It is the preached Word, it seems, which the Holy Spirit uses in a unique way to give life and ignite faith in a person’s soul.
  • Preaching is not finally a matter of giving a few thoughts here and there about God or the Bible. It is the proclamation of an authoritative message from the throne room of heaven itself: Be reconciled to God through Jesus!
  • Expositional preaching is preaching in which the main point of the biblical text being considered becomes the main point of the sermon being preached.
  • Exposing God’s Word is the aim of every prophet and preacher of God in the Bible.
  • Perhaps we as preachers should be more demanding of our listeners instead of “meeting them where they are” in their Internet-ravaged, television-shredded, 140-character-only, lopped-off-at-the-knees attention spans. That doesn’t mean we should preach poor sermons and tell them they have to listen. But it does mean that perhaps we should teach the Christians God has placed under our care that they must work at listening to the sermon even as we work at preparing and preaching it.
  • That’s what God’s Word does when it is preached. It gives life. It convicts, it encourages, it challenges, and it awakens faith.
  • Abdication of leadership is as much leadership as godly initiative-taking.
  • Christian preaching, though, has at its heart the desire to make a change, to say something the world does not hear from anywhere else and does not even want to hear. It’s not that Christian preachers are looking for ways to be contrarian. It’s that the message we have been given to preach is the countercultural, status quo challenging, and offensive declaration that the human race is in rebellion against our King, and that our choices are to be judged for that rebellion or to accept love and forgiveness from His hand.
  • That’s what God’s Word does when it is preached. It gives life. It convicts, it encourages, it challenges, and it awakens faith.
  • When we preach, we preach for change. We preach for effect. In everything—from the way we introduce our sermons, to the way we illustrate our points, to the way we bring everything down to the conclusion—we preach with the goal of spurring believers on in their maturity in Christ and of awakening nonbelievers to their need for the Savior. In a word, that answers that we preach with two main aims, to edify and to evangelize.
  • In a word, that answers that we preach with two main aims, to edify and to evangelize.
  • Your sermons should never be forty-five-minute morality lessons or best practices for living a better life. They should drive forward to the good news that King Jesus saves sinners through His life, death, and resurrection from the grave.
  • Every sermon you preach, you should include at some point a clear and concise presentation of the gospel. Tell people how they may be saved! I never want someone to come to my church, not just for a length of time but even for one single service, and be able to say they didn’t hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • In preaching the first thing that you had to do was to demonstrate to the people that what you were going to do was very relevant and urgently important.
  • The point isn’t for your congregation to be able to recall, like human Google searches, every sentence or even every point you made. The point is for the Word to shape their hearts and minds and wills, and that can happen even if they don’t remember the precise words or points you spoke.
  • A good rule of thumb is to assume that everyone who ever hears you preach is both very intelligent and very uneducated. In other words, assume they have never been taught about the Christian faith, but that they are fully capable of benefiting from a solid explanation.
  • If we truly understand God’s grace, we’ll never enter the pulpit thinking that we deserve to be there. Instead we’ll know a deep sense of unworthiness before we bring God’s Word, and a confirming sense of shame afterwards as we see how God uses His Word in people’s lives, and as we consider how much better we’re able to preach than to live.

If you preach on a regular basis or want to, this is a good book to pick up.