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Book Reviews > Preaching > The Practical Preacher: Practical Wisdom for the Pastor-teacher

Ray VanNeste

Ray VanNeste
Director of the RC Ryan Center for Biblical Studies and Assistant Professor of Christian Studies

The Practical Preacher: Practical Wisdom for the Pastor-teacher
William Philip, ed.
Details: 2002, Christian Focus Publications, Amazon.comISBN: 185792794X
Posted: January 22, 2003

This is an excellent little book for pastors and pastors in training. William Philip has brought together addresses by Melvin Tinker, David Jackman, Martin Allen, Jonathan Prime and Sinclair Ferguson from recent conferences of the Proclamation Trust (UK). Proclamation Trust (www.proctrust.org.uk) is at the forefront of encouraging expositional preaching in the UK, and this book presents a fine opportunity to glean from its work.

These essays seek to encourage pastors to preach expositionally and give hints for how to actually get it done. The first two essays are preparatory: ‘Preparing a Congregation for Expository Preaching,’ ‘Planning a Preaching Programme.’ There is a good bit of wisdom here, first in confronting the fact that many congregations will not be accustomed to expository preaching and then thinking strategically about what, when and how to preach so as to preach ‘the whole counsel of God’ (Acts 20:27). The third essay, ‘From Text to Sermon,’ is an excellent summary of how to prepare and preach- excellent as a reminder for those with formal training or as an introduction for those without it. This essay alone is worth the book. Jackman makes many excellent points through the entire process of sermon preparation including some incisive observation on applications. Though so much could be said, two quotes will illustrate the viewpoint of the author:

‘This is what preaching is all about; it is not just simply laying out the truth of the message, but it is the invasion of the living God through his word into the mind, heart and will of the hearer. It is very unsettling, very challenging, and very demanding’ (56).

‘Journalistic preaching says: “I have got to do something with the Bible. I have got to construct a sermon, I have got to do something with the Bible so there is something to give on Sunday.” Expository preaching says: “The Bible has got to do something with me.” The Bible is setting the agenda in expository preaching, whereas I am setting the agenda in journalistic preaching’ (57).

The next two essays focus our thoughts on those who will hear us and whom we are to shepherd: ‘Preaching to Real People’ and ‘Pastoring Real People.’ In some contexts the phrase ‘real people’ would connote a downplaying of spiritual needs and truths, but such is not the case here. These essays are excellent in helping us to focus on applying biblical truths on the lives of our people realizing this is the most helpful thing we can give them. The ‘Pastoring’ essay is essentially an investigation of the pastoral concerns and methods seen in 1 Thessalonians- very well done. The book closes with Sinclair Ferguson’s appraisal of ‘The Preacher as Theologian.’ Ferguson opens with an old quote about John Calvin, that he ‘became a theologian in order to be a better pastor’ and closes by stating, ‘You cannot be a preacher without being a theologian, just as- in the truest sense- you cannot be much of a theologian unless you are, at heart, a pastor.’

This book is essentially a preaching workshop in printed form. Though its roots in the British setting are at times apparent, the differences in the American setting are in this issue not great. I whole-heartedly recommend this book. It would make a great gift for young men who are training to be pastors.