October 21, 2013

Read a Book on Preaching. Even If You're Not a Preacher.

photo: Pinehaven Presbyterian Church
So I’m reading a book written by a preacher, for preachers, about preaching.

No, my fellow complementarians (and members of the presbytery advisory committee) I’m not planning step into a pulpit in the coming Sunday mornings. You won’t find me expositing the book of John in my very rusty—completely disappeared?—Greek. Or contemplating purchase of one of the clerical outfits for women, featured recently in the New York Times.

No, I’m not planning to preach. But I am reading this book on preaching, and it’s good for my soul.

See, ‘round here, preaching can get downright ordinary.

The commentaries stack up weekly in the corners of our house, and then they are replaced by new stacks, addressing different passages. The Documents pane of our laptop scrolls almost endlessly. 1,816 documents containing the word “sermon.”

For me, sermons are a weekly cycle. Every Tuesday it’s how’s-the-sermon-going-this-week and every Saturday it’s let’s-go-to-the-playground-Daddy’s-writing-a-sermon. Every Sunday it’s sermon’s-printing-get-in-the-van-for-church. Like clockwork.

My life revolves around preaching.

So, after a decade of being married to a preacher (and two decades before that as the daughter of one,) when my preacher-husband handed me this book by Christopher Ash, The Priority of Preaching, with the endorsement—“you’d like this”—I opened it and rediscovered something.

My. Life. Revolves. Around. Preaching.

1. Preaching is essential. Ash writes,“God did not just give them [his people] the book. He gave them preachers of the book so that face to face they could be taught, challenged, rebuked and exhorted to repentance and faith.”

2. Preaching is very hard work. “We [preachers] persevere in the hard discipline of immersing ourselves in a Bible book for a preaching series, so that the word gets right into the preacher as the preacher gets into the word. We wrestle and struggle with the word. As a preacher friend of mine put it, we lay ourselves on the anvil and come out of our preparation and our preaching hurting, as our own sin is exposed; we ourselves are moved afresh to repentance and faith, as we feel the pain of a rebellious, dying world.” [emphasis mine]

3. Preaching has a goal. “The purpose of preaching is not preaching. Preaching is not an end in itself. We do not preach so that people will go away saying, ‘That was good preaching.’ The purpose of preaching is performance—not the performance of the preacher but the corporate performance of the whole assembly whose lives and relationships are shaped by the preached word of grace.”

4. And Preaching is dependent on the Spirit. Here, Ash quotes Charles Spurgeon: “We might as well preach to stone walls as preach to humanity unless the Holy Ghost be with the word, to give it power to convert the soul.”

The work of preaching is daily. It’s a bread-and-water kind of daily. It’s an oxygen kind of daily. It’s a war kind of daily. The words in this book moved me to prayer. To ask that preachers be raised up. To pray that my preacher-husband not fall silent. To plead for the Spirit's power.

Because my life, and the life of the whole world, revolves around preaching.

Ash, Christopher. The Priority of Preaching. 2010. Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus. ISBN: 978-1-84550-464-9


  1. Inspiring. So thankful for preachers who's goal is to preach God's word rightly!

    I laughed when you wrote about the stacks of commentaries! Brad's office is here in the manse, so as the week goes on the stacks of books and commentaries spread and grow throughout the house! We (I) pick them up Sat. night, returning them to the office, and it all starts over on Monday. :)

    1. This made me laugh. I love the idea of herding books like sheep!

  2. Yes!

    [One of my favorite books from seminary (which I "attended" most evenings on the townhouse couch at about 8 P.M.) was "Why Johnny Can't Preach."]

  3. Take a look at Clarence Macartney's Preaching Without Notes, for a look at a preacher who was really a preacher!

  4. It is amazing to me how preaching can be put forth with so many styles and by so many personalities and still, with the help of the Holy Spirit, remain true to the Bible.


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