Book Review of Leland Ryken and Todd Wilson (eds.) (2007). Preach the Word: Essays on Expository Preaching in Honor of R. Kent Hughes. Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL.  287 pages by Adam Rasmussen

When you love the church, you pray for your pastor. You want him to flourish under the Lordship of Christ in all of life so he will faithfully “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2). Alarmingly, however, the American pastorate is filled with disheartened and often confused ministers. A recent study (Ryken and Wilson, 2007, p. 246) revealed that nearly 90% of pastors feel inadequately trained for the ministry, 80% confess that ministry affects family negatively, and 45% have experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.

Pastors and congregants alike need encouragement and biblical instruction. I believe you will find both should you read Preach the Word: Essays on Expository Preaching in Honor of R. Kent Hughes. The festschrift of seventeen excellent essays was written to honor the author of the popular Disciplines of a Godly Man and the Preaching the Word commentary series editor. After serving in ministry under Dr. Hughes and knowing him personally for nearly thirty years, I can testify that he is an exemplary human being. Preach the Word masterfully honors him and the type of expository preaching his entire life has exemplified.

Preach the Word is an excellent resource on biblical preaching with contributions from D.A. Carson, John MacArthur, Wayne Grudem, Paul House, Leland Ryken, J.I. Packer, and many more. It defines expository preaching as:

“the public and passionate teaching, proclamation, and application of a biblical text in its context in the power of the Holy Spirit and, since the preacher’s message is faithful to the original meaning, it is authoritative and binding–the very Word of God. Such preaching exalts Christ Jesus as He is revealed in all the Scripture, and calls its hearers to exalt Him in their lives.” (p. 250)

The book begins with a section on Interpretive Principals and Practices. When speaking about the Bible as literature, Leland Ryken profoundly states, “the literary forms of the Bible have been by inspired by God” (p. 53). And again, “we need to read the Bible as literature, just as we need to read it theologically and (in the narrative parts) historically” (p.40). Wayne Grudem gives this advice regarding the right interpretation, “If ‘solid food is for the mature” (Heb. 5:14), then personal holiness of life and the maintenance of strong personal faith and a vital relationship with the Lord all are important in right interpretation of Scripture” (p.66). In the next section on Biblical and Historical Paradigms, the essays outline the ministries of powerful preachers such as the Apostle Paul, Richard Baxter, and Charles Simeon. The third section on Contemporary Challenges and Aims is followed by the last on Training and Example.  

Some chapters are written with academic precision. Those with scholarly appetites will be satisfied by Duane Litfin’s erudite treatment of kyrgma and David Helm’s history of Puritan influence on preaching. Chapters like John MacArthur’s on study methods are unusually practical. Randall Gruendyke’s biography entitled Disciplines of a Godly Pastor is a warm retelling of the life of R. Kent Hughes that will do your heart good. The power of witness abounds in J.I. Packer’s retelling of Charles Simeon. Phillip Ryken challenges the contemporary church when he says:

“The most effective way to keep Paul’s charge to preach the Word through biblical exposition: the careful and thorough communication of what the Bible says. This is the kind of preaching—I think really the only kind of preaching that can re-form a deformed church back into the biblical pattern.” (p.200)

Jon Dennis ignites a passion for training up the next generation of preachers.  

Precision and practicality, warmth, and witness are the attributes of Preach the Word: Essays on Expository Preaching in Honor of R. Kent Hughes. I believe this book will grow your love for the church, your pastor, and the Word of God.

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