Letters to my Students (Volume 1): On Preaching

In what many believe to be Paul’s final letter, the apostle wrote to Timothy and gave Him this command, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”[1] Preaching is God’s divinely ordained means for communicating His Word, for nourishing His church, and for redeeming a people for Himself. Other ministerial activities may complement preaching, but no ministerial activity should displace preaching (20). According to Dr. Jason K. Allen, “Growing in ministry is a lifelong pursuit, and growing as a preacher is to be the same (xvIII).

As a beginner preacher, you will be excused for unrefined speech, awkward locutions, fidgety habits, and nervous ticks. But you ought not to be excused for mishandling the passage (p. 51).

Dr. Allen is the fifth president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary located in Kansas City, Missouri. Further, Dr. Allen serves as an associate professor for preaching and pastoral ministry (taken from the back cover). From his experience and education, Dr. Allen has written a superb work on the topic of preaching. This work consists of three parts: Preparing to be a preacher, preparing your sermon, and growing in your preaching. Every section of this book is like taking a sip of fresh water on a hot, summer day. This work reaffirmed what I have previously learned in seminary in this area of study, and helped strengthen my convictions in regard to expositional preaching.

In Section one, Dr. Allen addresses the subject of preparation. According to Dr. Allen, “You should not-indeed you must not-pursue a pulpit ministry without gaining certainty in your calling (3).” How is one to know whether they have been called to preach? Dr. Allen lists four characteristics that assist in discerning the calling of a preacher. First, one must have a burning desire. Second, one must live a holy life. Dr. Allen states, “To be sure, if you aspire to the ministry, it may help to be winsome, to be eloquent, or to possess a magnetic personality. Yet, before one looks for these secondary strengths, you must first meet the primary, nonnegotiable qualifications of 1 Timothy 3 (6).” Third, you must surrender your life to the Lord’s calling. Fourth, you must have an ability to teach. In addition to discerning one’s call, Dr. Allen discusses cultivating one’s ability to preach, preaching with authority, the need for expositional preaching, and eight tips for beginning preachers.

The surest way to undermine your preaching is to be a hypocrite outside the pulpit. A preacher’s credibility with his congregation is slowly accumulated but abruptly forfeited. It enters town on foot; it departs on horseback (p. 30).

Section two centers around the idea of sermon preparation. In this section, Dr. Allen gives practical questions that will help the preacher understand the context of the passage that he will be preaching. This section is extremely practical as the author seeks to equip the reader with the understanding of faithful interpretation, amplifying main points of a sermon, use of illustrations, and connecting the text to Jesus Christ. One of my favorite topics of this section was on the use of words. Dr. Allen states, “For sermons an essential element is words. Determining which words to use and which words to avoid is a key aspect of sermon preparation (95).” What are some of the words that Dr. Allen encourages to be omitted? They include thing, opinion, sorry, concluding, and God (yes, God. For an explanation, buy the book). These words can weaken a sermon, but some words strengthen sermons. These words are bible, look, repent, you, and Jesus.

The third and final section dealt with the issue of growth in preaching.  Should a preacher engage cultural concerns? If so, when? These are questions that are answered in this final section. Further, Dr. Allen instructs on giving a public invitation, maturing as a preacher, and provides a final checklist before preaching. Dr. Allen concludes the third section by addressing the issue of perseverance in preaching. Dr. Allen, drawing on the words of Charles Spurgeon, promotes passion being an important factor in perseverance. Spurgeon once said, “Brethren, if the Lord gives you no zeal for souls, keep to the lapstone or the trowel, but avoid the pulpit (159).” How timely is this word of warning today?

We must settle for nothing less than preaching that which is muscular in biblical content, courageous in delivery, and Christ centered in focus (p. 88).

I received this copy of Letters to my Students(Volume 1): on preaching for free with the condition that I publish an honest review of the work. I have read many works on preaching ranging from Spurgeon, Dr. Steven Smith, Dr. David Allen, and Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Although I have read some amazing works on the topic of preaching, I can honestly say that Dr. Jason K. Allen’s book was an encouragement to my soul. As stated earlier, the book reaffirmed and strengthened my convictions in regard to the need for expositional preaching. Moreover, as I was reading this book, I found myself yearning to put into practice what I had been learning. After finishing this work, I could not wait to craft another sermon. This will be a work that I will not only revisit often, but one I will eagerly distribute to potential pastors/preachers.

If interested in buying a copy, you can do so on Amazon or B&H Publishing

If you would like to know more about Dr. Jason Allen & his ministry, you can visit his website here.

Soli Deo Gloria 

Josh Chambers

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[1] 2 Timothy 4:2

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