Thursday, January 19, 2017

Help for preaching the Old Testament

I've been preaching off and on now for about six years. During that time my favorite and probably best sermons came from a series I did on Daniel. When offered the opportunity to receive a review copy of Preaching Old Testament Narratives from Kregel Publications, I had to take it. I'm glad I did.

Benjamin Walton, formerly a pastor, is president of PreachingWorks, an organization that helps pastors become better preachers. Walton argues that Old Testament Narratives shouldn't be preached like New Testament epistles, prophecy, or other biblical genres. For one thing, a complete unit of thought (CUT) in the Old Testament may encompass a number of chapters, whereas a CUT in the New Testament may be as short as a paragraph or two. Old Testament narratives describe more than they prescribe, whereas New Testament epistles are filled with exhortations and succinct theological truths. Even where a command or expectation is clearly spelled out in the Old Testament, it requires careful analysis in light of the full revelation of the gospel in Jesus Christ in the New Testament.

Since the quality of a sermon depends first on a proper understanding of the text, Walton guides readers through the process of identifying a complete unit of thought, considering the theological and historical contexts, and studying the CUT in order to determine the original theological message (OTM) that author was communicating to his audience. This in turn will lead to an appropriate take-home truth (THT) in light of the fuller revelation of the gospel.

I admit that the acronyms were a little distracting at first, but having "complete unit of thought" or "original theological message" spelled out every time would have been even more distracting in certain sections of the book, so I'm glad he did it.

Half of the book focuses on developing the sermon, and the second half looks at delivery. He considers popular approaches to preaching and assesses their strengths and weaknesses before delving into his own method. Walton emphasizes the purpose behind the introduction, particularly building rapport with the audience and showing them the relevance of the message about to be preached. As he moves through the rest of the sermon Walton provides numerous examples and tips for preaching that, if put into practice, are sure to improve our preaching.

I told my wife that I liked the book because it made me want to preach again. That alone should be enough to commend it.

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