I must confess that I have read a lot of books on Homiletics with a sense of reading the same content but with different cover. As I opened this book I thought it was another one to be set apart. Well, expository preaching is a very well-known concept among Seminary students. But why this title: And the word became… a sermon? My first impression was: wow! using a Bible verse to entitled a book sounds… don’t know… daring. So the content must be toughly theoretical. But… wait a minute! This is a GUIDE! And it is really what it says it is: a guide. Well done, Dr. Derek Newton! It would be better to say: a Practical guide.
With an easy-to-read prose, Dr. Newton holds our hand and guide us through the ten steps for sermon preparation; and he steps with us, you can feel you are not alone through the process. Before beginning, we must identify what sort of sermon we deliver. Is it a Hobby-horse sermon? Yes, that sort of obsessive idea running through all our sermons. Is it a Rocket sermon? No fixed trajectory. Or a Heart-on-the-sleeve sermon? With no basis in the biblical text? Or a Skyscraper sermon? You know, a patchwork quilt of stories and illustrations. O a grasshopper sermon? Jumping here and there, from theme to sub-theme and so and so.
As Dr. Newton puts:
We must go to the Scriptures themselves to ask whether this is a new problem and whether Scripture itself gives us clear indications or guidelines regarding the principles and practice of preaching. (p.13)
He gives room to two biblical arguments for Exposition of the Word, rooted in OT and NT passages. And as compulsory commentary, he writes a full chapter regarding the need for holiness in the Expositor (ch. 4), using the example of Timothy and Titus to give consistency to his argument.
Before starting our stepping forward, he talks about the nature of biblical expository preaching, writing things that every preacher must have as obvious on sermon preparation, but sadly things that we often forget, i.e., the sermon centres on biblical content; the sermon pays serious attention to contexts; also reflects the purpose of the biblical writer and applies the thought of the text.
Then we reach to the first step: reading and thinking. Obvious? It seems so, but do we dedicate time to think, making questions, reading in four or five different versions, meditate…? Dr. Newton remarks the necessity of an attitude of prayerful dependence on God. Yes, brothers, we depend on God for this task! I prefer not relying in a biblical study, but leaning on Jesus’ bosom, close to his heart.
The second step is trying to establish the main and real purpose of the passage. God has spoken; we must know what has He said.
Then comes the third one, that is, the contexts (in plural) of the passage: historical, sociocultural, religious and literary.
The fourth one is the content analysis to discern what the biblical writer was trying to communicate to the original readers. This means that the Bible message has one interpretation, but many applications. This step is divided into various stages: column analysis, grammatical analysis, exegetical analysis and biblical and theological reflection.
At this step you can think: Well, a lot of steps and stages, but how can I do that? Every step is followed by a this-is-how-I-do example. Yes, Dr. Newton is a good and proven teacher. (He’s been teaching for years at the Asian Theological Seminary, in Manila, Philippines).
Next step, the fifth one, leads with the issue of application to life, as the priority of the sermon. If application is deficient, defective, inappropriate or absent, then that sermon will fail to hit the target and fail to accomplish the divine intention for it (p. 160), writes Dr. Newton.
Then comes the method and outline as the sixth step, followed by writing out the body of the sermon as step seventh. Yes, you can find a lot of examples he has done before. The eighth one is inserting illustrations; and as a contradiction, but set in his right place, the ninth step is on preparation of an introduction and then, step tenth, preparing a conclusion.
Finishing this practical book, we can find a chapter on the actor preaching, concluding that exposition brings God’s purpose and application to bear upon the lives of our listeners. (p. 259).
And last, but not the least, a practical subject guide and Scriptures indexes close this recommended book to students, pastors, preachers, leaders and to all those who passion is preaching. I will use it in my classes as an efficient tool.
Find this book at www.christianfocus.com