Monday, July 9, 2018

Book Review: The Preacher's Catechism

The Preacher's Catechism. Lewis Allen. 2018. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

From the foreword: The Preacher’s Catechism is not merely a book to be speedread in one sitting—although doing so proves worthwhile. Rather, it is a book for a whole lifetime of ministry, one to which the preacher can turn again and again to be refreshed, strengthened, challenged, instructed, corrected, and encouraged to keep on going, and to seek to do better for the Lord. ~ Sinclair Ferguson

From the introduction: The Preacher’s Catechism is a book for busy preachers, young and experienced, whether bursting with enthusiasm or fighting cynicism, full-time or part-time. Preaching, the declaring of God’s eternal Word to time-bound but eternal creatures, is serious work, and its triumphs and disasters echo into eternity. We have the most glorious calling on earth, but it’s maybe also the hardest. Preaching really matters.

Lewis Allen's newest book is a catechism written specifically for preachers. In the introduction he shares three convictions that led him to write the book:
Conviction 1: The church needs preachers who last and thrive. Conviction 2: Preachers must understand how preaching works, and how their own souls work. Conviction 3: The Westminster Shorter Catechism is an outstanding resource for the heart needs of every preacher.
It is loosely structured on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Emphasis on loosely. It is in a question and answer format. The subject matter is similar. But it is 43 questions and NOT 107 questions. And it isn't just a light or slight rewording. It is a new catechism. The catechism is needed, Lewis believes, because preachers need reminders to minister to their own souls daily.

I thought I would share a sampling of the Questions and Answers:
1. Q. What is God’s chief end in preaching? A. God’s chief end in preaching is to glorify his name.
2. Q. How do we enjoy God? A. We enjoy God as we submit our hearts to all that he tells us.
3. Q. Who is God? A. God is the one who perfectly lives, rules, loves, and speaks, all to his own glory.
4. Q. What do the Scriptures primarily teach? A. The Scriptures are all about Jesus, the one to be proclaimed, trusted, and praised.
6. Q What is the preacher’s chief end? A. The chief end of the preacher is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.
9. Q. Why does God call us to preach? A. God calls us to serve all of our hearers with his gospel.
10. Q. What else did God ordain? A. God ordained that all things should be preached as being under the headship of Christ.
22. Q What does the first commandment teach us? A. You shall preach as a love expression to the Lord your God.
23. Q What does the second commandment teach us? A. You shall not make a preaching idol of your image or of anyone else’s.
30. Q. What does the ninth commandment teach us? A. You shall not say anything untrue in your ministry.
42. Q. What’s the worst sin we might commit in a sermon? A. We preachers can be the greatest sinners by failing to proclaim God for who he is. So pray.
There is an explanation or unpacking for each question and answer. I liked the questions and answers--I did. But I loved the commentary.

I would recommend this book. It is a substantive read with a lot of food for thought.

Favorite quotes:
Above everything else, those of us who are called to preach need to know that God is love (1 John 4:8). The church’s great news to a dying world is that there is a living God, whose love for his creation is inexhaustible. Could we ever love and serve anyone else before him? Without this conviction our preaching will shrivel and die, and we preachers will soon go the same way. With it, we can believe and do all things. The church has no other and no better message. This is her great declaration. 
You can only preach what you love. You can only truly love if you know and are daily fed by the love of God. God is always preaching himself, as the God of love. He has no greater message, no other gospel, and no greater purpose. Neither do we.
Our first calling is not to preach him but to love him and to walk with him. In the words of Samuel Rutherford, “Look up to Him and love Him! O love, and live.”
Rest is not a sin. Not resting is. God commands us to rest. God promises us the blessing of rest. If only we would take him at his Word.
If your sermon is dazzlingly original, it’s probably either heretical or terrible, or both. Far better men than us have written on the Scriptures through the centuries or are preaching them today. So access them.
Obedience to the commandment “Do not lie” does not mean “tell the truth regardless of whom you crush under it,” but it means “tell the truth in order to serve others in love.” There is no such thing as “naked truth” in the pulpit: truth must be ministered, and that means it must be delivered with abundant and sincere love. We speak the truth, always. We do that when it’s uncomfortable and stressful, and when we won’t be loved for doing so. We are called to make followers of Jesus Christ, not to build a personal fan base. Jesus was a man of truth, and his authentic servant will be too. “Peace, Peace, where there is no peace” sermons have a long and biblical pedigree, but they always come from the lips of false prophets, and they are always condemned (see, e.g., Jer. 6:13–15; Ezek. 13:10). Spurgeon declared, We might sooner pardon the assassin who stretches forth his hand under the guise of friendship, and then stabs us to the heart, than we could forgive the man who comes towards us with smooth words, telling us that he is God’s ambassador, but all the while foments rebellion in our hearts, and pacifies us while we are living in revolt against the majesty of heaven.
Grace is not a safety net, needed only when our tightrope walk amid sin goes wrong. Grace does not make God a last resort when we’ve grown tired of sin. Grace is not something we preach to others but pass over ourselves. Grace is not for new Christians only, leaving those of us experienced in the faith to rely on effort. Grace is for preachers. Grace is for everyday living and ministering.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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