I’m not saying that all my early sermons were bad. I should have spent more time under a wise mentor, though: someone to lead me through the early years of ministry, to show me the routines, and to give me feedback so I could do better. I knew the principles; I lacked exposure to the principles applied.
Although no book can replace a mentor, Preaching? by Alec Motyer comes close. Motyer, now deceased, was a preacher, teacher, and scholar. I’ve admired his scholarship, particularly his translation and notes on the Psalms. I find him humble, wise, and the kind of man I’d like to know and emulate.
That’s the beauty of this book. There’s nothing in it that you can’t learn anywhere else. It covers the standard topics: what preaching is, how to study the text, how to move from text to sermon, as well as the personal life of the preacher. As one of the participants in our preaching group observed, “Much of the book is what we were all taught in seminary, put in Motyer’s own words.”
The contribution of this book isn’t that it covers new material. It’s two things: we learn from Motyer’s personal examples. He tells us how he did it; he shares with us examples of his own exploration of Scripture, for instance. And it’s also that he shares with us wisdom that could only come from a lifetime of faithful ministry. There are some lessons you learn from a textbook, and other lessons you can only learn in apprenticeship to someone who’s served faithfully and effectively for years. We get a lot of the latter in this book.
In other words, any preacher, old and new, can benefit from reading this book. Read it to remind you of the basics. Read it to learn from the wisdom and example of a seasoned preacher and scholar. It will be good for your skills, but it will be good for your heart too.
On Thursday I’ll post some of the top quotes and takeaways from this book.
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