Thursday, January 02, 2014
Review: "The Priority of Preaching"
Christopher Ash has written an excellent book in The Priority of Preaching. Initially a series of lectures, he has reworked the material into a book of encouragement for preachers.
The introduction is addressed to discouraged preachers, and he gives an introduction to himself while arguing the preaching week after week is more significant than conferences, etc. Ash’s heart is in the preaching of God’s Work. His work derives from his exegesis of Deuteronomy.
In the first chapter he argues that “we must listen … to the Christian preacher because he is the prophet in our generation” (16). He argues that Christian preachers speak for Christ and God as we preach the Word with borrowed authority from God – and he argues persuasively that the Word of God “lives” in being preached. That is, the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God is the most effective manner through its preaching – rather than through reading or study groups.
He warns preachers of short-cuts and commends us to first hear the Word and then listen to the witness of the Church. Personal and mystical interpretations have no place – the Word is given to a people for a people. And God sets the agenda of what is to be preached (41).
In the second chapter, he argues that “preaching transforms the church, God’s people transformed by the preached word of God” (46). He argues that the themes of preaching (as found in Deuteronomy) are “the reality of God, the stubbornness of the people, the urgency of faith, and the wonder of grace” (48). We must preach the reality of God and what He has said, argue against the stubbornness of the congregation – and our – remaining sinfulness, call us to faith NOW, and magnify the wonder of the Grace of God in all of this.
In the third chapter, he argues that “preaching … mends a broken world” (75). Preaching, he explains, is God’s strategy for reassembling the world (78).
This is live preaching – preaching to the assembly. Preaching must be with people to hear it – not merely read or on tape or TV or radio. It is when the people are together in assembly that the world can be healed by grace. The preaching of the Word brings unholy people together before the Holy God in the communion of saints (92). A natural accountability occurs among divergent people (98), for the Word is addressed to the Church (100), and leads us to obedience (101). Through our obedience to the Word, as a group of unholy and different people as the Church, the world will look at us and understand that there is something to what we believe (103). The world reads our community (104).
In the appendix, he argues for preaching through books, or at least through extended texts, rather than topically or just by one’s favorite verses.
He argues that the preacher must spend the bulk of his time in the Word, as he quotes John Owen, “Nor is it required only that he preach now and then at his leisure; but that he lay aside all other employments, though lawful, all other duties in the church, as unto such a constant attendance on them would divert him from this work, that he may give himself unto it…. Without this, no man will be able to give a comfortable account of the pastoral office at the last day” (109).
In the rest of the appendix, he explains that in preaching through books of the Bible, the preacher is more apt to be coherent and preach what God has said, rather than what he likes, and thus delivers the Whole Counsel of God – over time – to his congregation.
I highly recommend this book to encourage preachers and to get us to remember that we are in the employ of God, not the congregation, and our call is to preach God’s Word fully, confidently, and with authority.