PREACHING. What is it? Is it an outdated form of communication employed by red-faced, self-righteous, pulpit pounding pastors? Is it a mode of communication for presumptuous persons panting to get their point across? Or is it, on a more positive note, the prime way God speaks through his written Word to the people his Spirit gathers together? Whatever your experience or perception, Christopher Ash will make you think about preaching. In his 2010 Christian Focus Publishers/Proclamation Trust Media release, The Priority of Preaching, Ash mines gold for present day preachers from the book of Deuteronomy and the preaching ministry of Moses.
Ash addresses the topic of preaching in three chapters: The Authority of the Preached Word, Preaching that Transforms the Church, and Preaching that Mends a Broken World.
In the first chapter, with Deuteronomy 18: 9-22 as his text, Ash aims to defend his thesis that, “we must listen today to the voice of the Christian preacher because he is the prophet in our generation as Moses was in his.” Furthermore, “the Christian preacher today can speak the words God puts in his mouth, the very words of God.” At face value, it’s obviously a bold thesis. However Ash, with an engaging writing style and a talent for teaching, provides the reader with a well-reasoned defense of his thesis. Along the way, he employs and interacts with a good deal of scholarship on both the book of Deuteronomy, the Hebrew Bible, and homiletics. Some notes sources include, J.G. McConville, J. Alec Motyer, Haddon Robinson, and John Stott. Arguing that the central theme of the book of Deuteronomy is, “how are the covenant people going to continue after the covenant mediator is gone?” he asserts that the answer of Deuteronomy is that “the covenant will continue as the covenant God assembles his covenant people under his preached covenant word.”
In chapter 2, Ash moves forward to look at how the task of preaching transforms the church. Working his way through Deuteronomy 30:11-20, Ash gives a detailed look at how God uses his Word preached to war against, and transform, the stubborn, idolatrous hearts of his people. As an encouragement to preachers of every level, Ash cites examples from the Reformers and other historical preachers as to the importance of serious study worked out in plain, clear, passion and simple (but not shallow) exposition.
Finally, Ash looks at Deuteronomy 4:5-14 as he discusses how preaching is used by God to mend a broken world. Ash notes that God is reassembling this broken world under one head, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he is accomplishing that in the gathered worshiping assembly through the preached covenant Word.
After the main portion of the book Ash offers a very helpful appendix hashing out the practical reasoning for his passionate plea for the priority of preaching in the church entitled, “Give God the Microphone!: Seven Blessings of Consecutive Expository Preaching. He notes and explains these seven blessings:
- Consecutive Expository Preaching Safeguards God’s Agenda Against Being Hijacked by Ours.
- Consecutive Expository Preaching Makes It Harder for Us to Abuse the Bible by Reading it Out of Context.
- Consecutive Expository Preaching Dilutes the Selectivity of the Preacher.
- Consecutive Expository Preaching Keeps the Content of the Sermon Fresh and Surprising.
- Consecutive Expository Preaching Makes for Variety in the Style of the Sermon.
- Consecutive Expository Preaching Models Good Nourishing Bible Reading for the Ordinary Christian.
- Consecutive Expository Preaching Helps us Preach the Whole Christ from the Whole of Scripture.
In sum, Ash’s brief defense of the priority of expository preaching will be of great encouragement to the discouraged pastor, a challenge to the purely topical preacher, and a plea for a rigorously listening ear to the person in the pew. The Priority of Preaching blends reasonable Old Testament scholarship with practical insight for the preacher, culminating in an excellent tome on the topic of preaching. I recommend it highly to both pastor and layperson!
*As a part of the Christian Focus Blog Tour, the publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review, provided a copy of this book. I was under no obligation to write a favorable review.
About the Author:
Christopher Ash is an ordained minister in the Anglican Church and Director of the Cornhill Training Course, a one-year course designed to provide Bible-handling and practical ministry skills to those exploring their future role in Christian work.