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Preaching with Bold Assurance: A Solid and Enduring Approach to Engaging Exposition (Bold Assurance Series, 2) Hardcover – June 1, 2003
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This is practical advice to help pastors communicated God's word in a way that honors the text and engages the congregation.
I will begin with what I see as various problems to the books approach and then I will end with what I see as the bright spots in the book. First, this work is not a theology of preaching. From the title one would think that at the least a theological argument for bold preaching would be developed but no such argumentation is offered. It is more a methodology of preaching. The book attempts to offer various tools for the busy preacher to help obtain effective preaching. As an interesting side note the book never really defines just what effective preaching is!
While the book does seek to wed together both message and method, content, and delivery it nonetheless remains that delivery and methodology take the reigns in this book. In the first part of the book the actual text is dealt with where the authors seek to argue for the goals, commitments, and purpose of preaching. This is by far the best section.
They do offer a method of outlining the biblical text, which follows along the lines of breaking down the sentences into the clausal level. Sentence diagramming is indeed helpful but I believe that there are better tools to this end. See Schreiner's "Interpreting the Pauline Epistles" (chapter 5) for a helpful way to diagram the Greek text and also Mounce's "Graded Reader" for a sure guide to diagramming on the broader clausal level.
In the second part of the book the authors deal with the development of the actual sermon. Chapter six on building a sermon with the Decker Grid System was extremely unhelpful. I am not sure why it was included in the book except that it was co-authored by Decker.
One of the biggest problems with the book as a whole is that the authors argue for making the sermon points applicational. I agree that sermons are to be strongly applicational for application is nothing more than giving teeth to Scripture. However the method of making all sermon points as applicational is seriously flawed. First, I am not against such an approach if the text allows and demands it. If one is preaching from the commands of Paul then it is valid to make the points applicational, but if one is preaching from narrative to make such applicational points would be to possibly degrade authorial intent (one of the author's five precommitments to preaching!). We need to allow the text to determine our sermon points, not our desire for application. Secondly, in insisting on application points there is the ever present danger of having one's sermon fall into moralism. This is particularly true of Old Testament preaching and fails to understand the redemptive-historical storyline of the Bible. The Bible is about Christ and mere moralism without Christ as the center is only the preaching of the law and not the law and the gospel. Such a danger is inherent in this approach.
Part three of the book is by far the worst. While the section begins well by stressing the importance of trust in preaching it quickly spirals downward. In order to establish trust, the authors believe that one must have effective communication skills. This truly is part of establishing trust but it is not the whole. One wonders if Paul would be heard since he often probably failed to meet the others nine communication skills and probably did not use applicational points in all his sermons. Trust is achieved both through behavior (in and out of the pulpit) and by faithfulness to the content, which is Holy Scripture.
Chapter twelve in my opinion is just hokey. There is no other way I can use to describe the authors notion of first brain theory. I am not at all a fan of psychology so maybe that is the problem, but the gatekeeper of the thinking brain is actually a visual only brain? This may be true for some people, but I am not one of them. They believe that if you want to reach a person's intellect you must go through their heart. There of course is some truth to this but to paint the picture so broadly is surely incorrect.
Overall this book tends to place more of preaching into the hands of the preacher instead of into the work of the Spirit. Of course they argue for the necessity of both in the book, but by the emphases within such argumentation seems rather contradictory. It gets back to this book seeming to be rooted in a poor theology of preaching. Theology does affect methodology! I believe that this is the greatest downfall of the book. It would have been more useful to spend at least a chapter or two developing a theology of preaching.
There are some redeeming qualities though. The five precommitments of the expositor although very basic are helpful reminders. The book also helps summarize various other books on preaching which is helpful. Preaching should also be calculated and purposeful while sticking to the biblical text. This is a needed reminder as many expositors often go astray from the text. I guess giving York and Decker the benefit of the doubt one should view this book as emphasizing one side of the coin. They emphasize the side of human responsibility while other books tend to emphasize the divine work of God. This may be behind the reason why this book was not that helpful for me.