The Glory of Preaching: Participating in God’s Transformation of the World by Darrell Johnson

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On one level all the ingredients that you might expect to be in a book on preaching is here in this book; the process from reading, to exegesis, to preparing the sermon, to the delivery and, of course, on the life of the preacher.

But this is far from a standard book on preaching.

Johnson’s assertion  is that the task of a preacher is to open the text in such a way that the text itself does what only the text can do.

It is HOW he unpacks this assertion which is so different and refreshing.

Johnson’s strong conviction in this book is that (1) when the living God speaks, something always happens, (2) when the preacher speaks God’s speech, God speaks; (3) therefore, when the preacher speaks God’s speech, something always happens.

And the process by which this happens is through expository preaching

Now, before I go on, I will address one area of disagreement I have with Johnson (a minor one). While I am in total agreement that expository preaching is necessary and indeed vital, he comes close to lessening other modes of preaching (i.e. topical preaching). Topical preaching, Johnson writes leaves too much to the preacher’s ability to come up with the content of the sermon….[and[ topical preaching can give an impression about the Bible that is not accurate. On this I would disagree with Johnson, although I do understand his point.

Johnson’s definition of  expository preaching is not about getting a message out of the text; it is about inviting people into the text so that the text can do only what the text can do. This is what Johnson means when he says “when the preacher speaks God’s speech, something always happen” – and this is what makes Johnson’s book so much more than just another book on preaching.

Part 1 of the book examines this fascinating and exciting point – preaching should mean something ALWAYS happens. How that happens is through the Holy Spirit. Divine transformation takes place; the preacher is participating with what the risen Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is doing in and with and through the text.

Part 2 of the book (Human Mechanics of Participating)  looks at how to develop the sermon, the person of the preacher and the life of the preacher – all good and useful chapters.

Part 3 looks at both the physical and spiritual place the preacher stands when they enter the pulpit – standing in the mystery – standing in the spiritual  power of the gospel which has been proclaimed to the world.

The epilogue is in the form of a sermon, while there are some wonderful suggestions for preparing sermon series in regard to the church year.

Johnson quotes extensively from various sources and books on preaching.

It is, however, Chapter 7, Walking the Sermon into Everyday Life which is worth the price of the book alone, and a chapter EVERY preacher should read.

Johnson begins the chapter with applying the text is not the preachers responsibility. This goes against most homiletical teaching (and congregational expectation). He goes on to make a distinction between applying the text and implying the text. No, this is not semantics to Johnson – he argues that a preachers job cannot be to apply the text – that is the role of the Holy Spirit. What a preacher should do is to imply the text – to present the congregation with the truths of the text so that they see that this is what necessarily happens. Imply conveys the idea of accepting the logical inherent consequences of the truth.

This leads us to change from the standard question (how should we apply the word) to asking a different question, where is the word leading us and will we co-operate and enter in. What is the reality into which the text is introducing us. Once we know this we have the answer to how should we apply this, an answer which can only be fulfilled through the work of the Holy Spirit in us.

This I loved. You can literally hear a collective sign of relief from preachers around the world. I also think  it is a vital piece of teaching in this book.

The Glory of Preaching combines in a very real way the spiritual aspect of preaching as well as the practical aspect without losing its focus or direction. In this short review I have only scratched the surface of this book – but it is a book I thoroughly recommend to ALL preachers and teachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ.