Preaching – How to Preach Biblically [Book Review]

Title: Preaching, How to Preach Biblically
Author: John MacArthur
ISBN: 978-1-4185-0004-7 (hardcover)
Copyright: 2005 John MacArthur pgs. 364

While having read quite a few books on preaching and pastoring over the years from a wide variety of authors from very diverse doctrinal backgrounds (MacArthur being one of them), I strive to glean something along the way that I hadn’t learned previously and to be put into remembrance of things forgotten.  Under the things I have learned category I would say I have learned that not everyone is in lockstep with everyone and while there are doctrinal convictions held by MacArthur I don’t agree with there are some things I can learn both in what to do and not do. The idiom, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater comes into play regardless of who you’re reading.

Good preachers who love their calling, their people and the craft of the sermon will seek ways to improve the pulpit ministry.  It’s interesting one of the very first books I read on sermon development was by Williams Evans titled How to Prepare Sermons. This was a very simple easy read, in many respects entry-level.  As I like to say, put over the plate and waist-high with practical tips to get you underway. One of the other books on preaching that stood out to was William Sangster’s work, The Craft of the Sermon. Slightly more involved but an easy read nonetheless.  Broadus’ work On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons is another of the early books worth getting your hands on. All great in their own right. Of course, there are many other worthy mentions.

Books on preaching are very similar in the content (Hermeneutics, Outlines, the pastor and his personal life, delivery, etc.) but different in the approach and application. MacArthur’s book on preaching is no different. The information was put out an easy to read format and the content was not too technical, not like a Bryan ChappelChrist-Centered Preaching – or Wayne McDill, – The Twelve Essential Skills for Great Preaching -, but certainly enough to keep you engaged. I will be revisiting a number of sections for further research and clarification.

Since most books in this genre are similar in their content I decided to cull out some of the chapters that stood out and highlight the key point (s) of those. In future reviews, I will use the same format.

Chapter 3The History of Expository Preaching – I am at a stage in my ministry where I want to know, right wrong or indifferent, the history of a thing. I like studying the etymology of words, studying out church history, history of doctrine and here history of expository preaching. His emphasis, and rightly so, was on the history of expository preaching. He covers the Biblical Period, the early church, Medieval Period, Reformation and Modern Period leading up to today. Listing key figures in each period.

Chapter 4The Priority of Prayer and Expository Preaching – While I realize the matter of prayer is brought up in nearly every work on preaching MacArthur places a lot of emphasis on it in this chapter, sharing his own personal experience in this area. I wholeheartedly agree with him and any reference, encouragement or admonition in this area is never burdensome. I gleaned much and was challenged much.  The primacy of Christ in preaching is needful, the primacy of PRAYER in preaching Christ even more so.

Chapter 10Study Tools for Expository Preaching – Excellent chapter with a number of great ideas on the need for a preacher to have a good library. He has a preacher’s toolbox of sorts, including a list of materials preachers should have in their study. There seems to be a growing trend of anti-intellectualism (don’t read books, but hey listen to someone on youtube) in some circles this is a blight on modern Christianity.  His book list is quite extensive with suggestions under a variety of headings including, Bible History, Hermeneutics, Concordance, Surveys, Archeology and so on. Useful chapter!

Chapter 16Moving From Exegesis to Exposition – Lots to take in in this chapter especially when you consider that writing the sermon takes time, discipline and then the delivery. All that hard work leading up to the time of delivery can be wasted with a failed exposition. He includes a helpful little checklist titled the Seven Be’s of Exposition which challenges us to BE: Prepared, Interesting, Biblical, Prayerful, Enthusiastic, Authoritative and Relevant. Nice reminders as we daily prepare for the hour of exposition.

While these were just a handful of chapters that stood out to me the book, in general, offered useful information as preachers daily prepare themselves and sermons for the congregation they’re called to minister to.

In closing out this review there were a couple of things that were off to me.

It seems the first half of the book he used an extensive amount of quotations. While the sources and quotes themselves weren’t bad they did get a bit annoying. It may be just me and other readers won’t have an issue, but for me, it just seemed a bit much.  Don’t get me wrong I enjoy a good quote as they often cement the truth being taught, but extensive quotes.

On another note in Chapter 8, he talked about correcting the translations from the pulpit. In his own words, he said, “the will preacher will have to correct or clarify [I have no issue with clarification, it’s the nature of what we are called to do, but correction?] the translation during the message. During the message, he must be careful to limit these corrections perhaps to only two or three, for fear of shaking the confidence of his listeners in the Bible they hold in their hands.” pg 116

Two things, I don’t think any preacher should have to correct the word of God. The scriptural mandate is to preach it not to correct it. I’ve not read anywhere in scripture the mandate to correct God’s word.

We live in an age where this practice is all too common and I believe this practice is leavening the authority of the word of God in the lives of God’s people and decreasing credibility with those outside Christian circles.

Below is a link to two polls one by Gallup and another by Barna showing Americans and their views on the Bible.

Barna tends to be my go-to when it comes to this kind of research. They have established themselves, at least in my opinion as a credible resource in these areas.

Well, I will part ways here. While there were other questions/concerns I will hold my comments for another blog. Overall I enjoyed the book and gleaned much that will help me along the way as I seek to improve all facets of sermon prep and delivery.  May God richly bless your studies as seek his will for your life and ministry.