Giving God the mic! A review of The Priority of Preaching, by Christopher Ash
Monday 24 November 2014 by Ad Taylor-Weekes
You know you've read a good book when you end up thinking, "everybody should read this!" The trouble is that most people who might read it have already got a stack of other books they, "should read" first. So how can I get the content of this book to people? I have a few options:
- buy everyone a copy (but funds are limited and, as I've said, most people have already got a long queue and limited time)
- share the link with everyone to the original talks upon which the book is based (here are talk 1, 2 and 3 but I think the book probably has more in it and a great Appendix)
- preach it on Sundays (but as you'll find out, when you read it (!) that contradicts one of the 7 blessings of consecutive expository preaching in the Appendix)
- blog about it (here I am)
Although I thought it was excellent I have to say that, in hindsight, I partly disagree with the first sentence, "This book is written for preachers and aspiring preachers." Of course that is true, but this is a great book for anyone who listens to preaching too; and anyone who wants to know why preaching is vital (literally) for the church. So why did I think it was so great?
There are 3 chapters each of which are based on one of the original talks from the EMA 2008.
Chapter 1 deals with the topic of The Authority of the Preached Word. The first statement Christopher makes is The Preacher Exercises the Authority of Christ in the Church. From Deuteronomy 18:9-22 he develops this carefully with two further statements: 1) Under the old covenant, God governed his people by the written word preached by the prophets and then 2) Under the new covenant, Christ governs his people by the written word preached by preachers. He is careful, of course, not to draw a thick line straight from old testament prophets to new testament preachers. Christ himself is the archetypal prophet. But he is no longer here! That's where the preacher steps in. To continue to proclaim the word of Christ.
Having established the place of priority of preaching Christopher then moves into the second chapter to deal with how that preaching should be undertaken. A distinction between preaching and teaching is made as he highlights 4 preaching themes from Deuteronomy 30:11-20. One of the most helpful parts of this chapter is his use of John Stott's term, "silent dialogue", to explain what should characterise preaching. It shouldn't be monologue or dialogue, but silent dialogue, answering the real but unexpressed questions of the hearers. Also great is his plea for urgent, passionate clarity, clear urgent passion and passionate clear urgency!
If chapter 1 established the primacy of preaching, and chapter 2 addressed the importance of actually preaching, rather than simply teaching, the theme of chapter 3 is explores the God-designed context for preaching: the assembly. Looking at Deuteronomy 4:5-14 he argues that the local church, called together by, and under, the word of God, is God's means of reaching and mending a broken world.
So what are the implications of this for:
- the job of the preacher each week?
- the preparation of the preacher each week?
- how we listen to preaching?
- the value of Bible study groups?
- the value of 1-2-1 Bible study?
- the value of listening to the sermon of another preacher to another church in another town (or country) on my own on my iPod?
These are good and important questions that I enjoyed reading the answers to!
The book is preaching, modelled - not surprising I suppose given that, as with Deuteronomy, the original recipients were hearers.
I wasn't at the EMA when Christopher gave these talks but I was speaking to someone who was manning the bookstall who said he could hear the roaring laughter coming from inside.
You've got to realise that a book is great when even the Appendix is mentioned. This would make a great booklet in it's own right. It is titled, Give God the microphone! and is subtitled: Seven Blessings of Consecutive Expository Preaching. I list the seven here but each section is well applied and well worth the read:
- It safeguards God's agenda against being hijacked by ours
- It makes it harder for us to abuse the Bible by reading it out of context
- It dilutes the subjectivity of the preacher
- It keeps the content of the sermon fresh and surprising
- It makes for variety in the style of the sermon
- It models good nourishing Bible reading for the ordinary Christian
- It helps us preach the whole Christ from the whole of Scripture
If you've got this far in the post you've probably got time to read the book itself - so why not give it a go? You can buy it here or I can lend you mine. In fact I'll put it in the Emmanuel library.