TC Robinson has a post campaigning for expository preaching. Some like it some don’t. Some know how to do it well, some do not. It’s quite a discipline and takes work. I tend to think this is why many pastors resort to topical and thematic preaching because they may not really know how to put together an expository sermon or may feel they don’t always have time so they resort to topical issues. Here’s how I see it: no one form of preaching is necessarily better then another form per se. There are those who esteem the expository sermon as being really the only true form of biblical preaching and that other forms are looked down upon. I do not think that should be the case. In following Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 I think there is a time the expositional preaching series and there’s the time for the textual sermon, and there is the time for the topical sermon series. The good Pastor knows when to do which. My approach would be, zero in on the exposition of scripture and as needed (following the Spirit’s leading) do the topical, textual, thematic, narrative sermon, etc. Preaching is an art really more than a science. While it has rules, there is flexibility and you learn to get the feel of it and soon develop your own style – and that takes time (and lots of preaching!).
That said, here are a few books (among the plethora) I’ve found helpful for preaching (none of which are perfect). I put them in what I would consider an order of importance:
James Braga’s How to Prepare Bible Messages, 35th Aniv Edition (Multnomah Books, 2005).
This is a really great book to start out with, if not one of the best for learning the basics of putting a sermon together. It used to be used a lot in colleges and seminaries but since Braga passed away in 1994, more “newer and better” books have come out. Well, that’s all good and well, but if I taught a beginning homiletics course this book would be on the list. It covers basic sermon structure and gives countless examples of outlines and the like. It shows the basics for the topical, texual and expositional sermon. A great place to start. Very foundational.
Bryan Chapell’s Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon, 2nd, ed (Baker Academic, 2005).
This is probably the single best book available on developing skills in expositional preaching, and that from a primairly reformed perspective though easily applicable to nearly any orthodox theological persuasion. This isn’t just a book on theories – its explcitly a “how to” book on designing, developing, and delivering expository sermons that are faithful to the text, redemptive in focus, and application-oriented in style. There are a couple of main emphasis that set this book apart from the rest. The first is in learning to identify the fallen condition focus (FCF) of the text to be preached. This will help keep the sermon particularly Christ-centered and keep the sermon focused. Too many sermons lack focus. The other emphasis is on developing a sound balance between explanation, illustration, and application, which typically, many a serom goes too much on one or the other. The fact that there is emphasis on developing application points is significant because it helps the preacher to contemporize the biblical text (bridge the gap), help people see abstract truth in a way that is concrete, pictoral, sensible, and drive home the practical significance of the Bible in a way the will encourage both personal and corporate life transformation.
Michael Quicke’s 360 Degree Preaching: Hearning, Speaking, Living the Word (Baker Academic, 2003).
This is one of my favorties. He approaches preaching from a trinitarian perspective and introduces what he calls the preaching swim (how he goes about developing the sermon: immersion into Scripture, interpretation, sermon design, sermon delivery, and outcomes) and then gives one of his own sermons to show what he means. On the issue of the trinitarian dynamic of preaching, he takes John Stott’s 180 degree approach (the preaching bridge in Between Two Worlds) and completes the circle. Quicke sees the preaching act as “involving movement through the 360 degress of eventfulness as God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, – speaks through his Word and empowers the preacher and convicts the listeners and transforms the lives of preacher and the listeners.” It’s good, good stuff. I want to check out his book 360 Degree Leadership.
Haddon Robinson’s Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages (Baker Academic, 2001).
This is the standard for expositonal sermons and is used by many a Bible college and Seminary. Here you learn to zero in on the big idea and figure out what the key ideas are in the text you’ll be preaching, ask the “so what?” question and so on. The idea is that it is really important to have a central propostion or one main idea you are trying to communicate so the sermon maintains it focus – one main idea with upt to 3, not more than 4-5 points used to develop the main idea. The problem for new preachers is the tendecy to overload the sermon – try to say too much or present too many ideas. That overwhelms both the preacher and the listener. I just thought it was interesting at the end he talked about the preacher not being overweight so as to not undermine his message about basic aspects of Christian discipline and such. I understood the point, but whatever.
Sidney Greidanus’ The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text: Interpreting and Preaching Biblical Literature (Eerdmans 1988).
This might be from the 80’s but I see it as by no means dated. This is another one of my favorites. Lots of good stuff, but most useful is the section where he talks about the different genre of the Bible and how to use that information in understanding the text and preaching it accordingly.
Graeme Goldsworthy’s Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture: The Application of Biblical Theology to Expository Preaching (Eerdman’s 2000).
This is not a “how to” on designing and developing sermons so much as it focuses on understanding aspects of biblical theology and integrating biblical theology into your preaching. It helps the reader think through such questions as “What is the relationship between the Old and New Testaments?” “What is the central message of the bible?” “How does each passage relate to the central message about Christ?” “What does this mean to us as we seek to preach it?” and so on. It emphasizes that the Christian Bible is the One Word Written of the One God about salvation in Jesus Christ. It’s a book every preacher/teacher needs. Get this book.
Edmund P. Clowney. Preaching Christ in All of Scripture. Crossway, 2003.
Don’t let the reformed nature of this approach scare you away. Where appropriate we can and should preach Christ in all of Scripture, for in the words of John R. W. Stott, Jesus Christ is the center of history, the focus of Scripture, the heart of mission. So, what makes a sermon distinctively Christian? Christ does. A truly Christian sermon from anywhere in the Bible must take into account the full drama of redemption and its realization in Christ. If you want to preach Christ, get this book.
That’s it for now.
What preaching books have been helpful for you? There are just so many out there.