"Please! No more boring sermons"

Book Review by Peter Brain

Editor Keith Weller Acorn Press 2007

This book will prove to be a very practical help for preachers. Its strength lays not so much in its express purpose of no more boring sermons but the clear conviction of each of its ten contributors that Biblical preaching is essential to God's purposes.

The first two thirds of the book contain eleven articles covering the importance of preaching, its character, preparation, its orality and sound, preaching and liturgy, preaching the Old Testament narrative, series, occasional and evangelistic preaching.

These are thoughtfully developed by eight experienced practitioners including now retired veterans like Harry Goodhew, David Williams, Keith Rayner and John Chapman along with those who teach and train new preachers, Peter Adam, Adrian Lane and Robin Payne and from the busy and experienced Vicar of St. Judes, Carlton, Richard Condie.

The final part of the book contains seven sermons from David Williams, Keith Rayner, John Dickson and the only layman, Dr. Michael Gourlay.

The Simeon Association and editor, Keith Weller, have done all preachers a great service in gathering together these papers and sermons many of which found their genesis in one day preaching seminars run by Ridley College at St. Francis Theological College in Brisbane.

I have been preaching regularly since 1971 and found much encouragement and reason to examine and improve my work in this most exciting privilege.

A number of themes kept emerging:

  • preaching is important in God's purposes. Peter Adam's quote of Donald Coggan makes this crystal clear, "there is an unbroken chain from the creative word in Genesis 1 to those who preach Sunday by Sunday"
  • preparation is therefore important work to be engaged in prayerfully, systematically and exegetically. The hard and detailed work of understanding the text is a constant theme and therefore a timely reminder to all preachers that ours is a given and derived task – of opening up the Biblical text, with great care. So "we do not impose onto the text ideas which God never intended to be there." (Chapman)
  • engagement with God and obedience to God and His word will be the goal of the preacher. The sermon, while full of teaching, will be far more than a lecture for these reasons:-
  • preaching involves "the exegesis of the hearers as well as the passage" (Goodhew)
  • we preachers need to be sensitive to the needs of the people to whom we preach. Williams speaks of Barth's plea to preachers that we do not ignore this 'passionate longing' of people
  • our preaching, especially expository preaching, must be intellectual and that 'which is passionate and emotional in its presentation' (Adam)
  • there is an urgency in our appeal. Rayner quotes John Wesley, "when I preach, I remind myself that there maybe some in my audience for whom this will be the last sermon they will ever hear; and this may be the last sermon I shall ever preach."

"Good preaching is infectious –we long to come under its sound again, and we long for those whom we love to come under its sound. And some of us dare to hope that we might be used of God to preach effectively." (Lane) There is an excitement and evident confidence in preaching that pervades this book. Transformation is clearly seen as the goal of our preaching. I am reminded of the saying "other books are given for information but this book (the Bible) for our transformation".

The seven sermons, and the one on the book of Ruth by Robin Payne in her article, are all edifying and serve as good examples of preaching in different contexts.

What I liked and was challenged by in this book was the twin focus of the hard work required of us in preparation and the way God uses His word prayerfully and carefully preached to transform and sustain His people.

I heartily commend this book to all who would be called to preach. Will it keep me from preaching boring sermons? I hope so, since it holds before me the glorious privilege of participating in God's gracious purpose of making known His Word at the same time as reminding me of how much I've benefited from the faithful preaching of others.

Available through the Ridley bookshop or download an order form through http://www.mathewhalepubliclibrary.com/

Peter Brain has been Bishop of Armidale since 2000. He and Christine have served parishes in Sydney, Adelaide and Perth. They have four children and four grandchildren. Driving through rural New England to go to church in different parishes gives them much joy and encouragement.