Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon
by Bryan Chapell
Christ-Centered Preaching is an excellent resource for the study of homiletics. I found his development of the exegetical method to be very helpful and well illustrated. His book is divided into three parts including the principles for and the preparation of expository preaching, and the theology of Christ-centered messages. He also includes a valuable appendix including topics such as wedding and funeral messages, the reading of Scripture, and methods of preparation.'
One of my favorite suggestions of the whole book is that of the "3 A.M. Test" (pg. 39). As a preacher prepares his sermon he should keep this simple test in mind. If someone were to wake him at 3 A.M. on Sunday morning, desperate to know what the sermon was about, he should be able to tell them in one sentence when awoken. The idea is that he must have the big idea clearly packaged and readily accessible to all. It must be easily remembered and accurate. This key aspect of a sermon is often neglected, to the detriment of both the preacher and listeners.'
Chapell also gave an insightful story of one of his past professors (pg. 44). The professor, a former military serviceman, recommended that each student as he spoke, envision him sitting in the back with his arms crossed and brow furrowed asking, "So what?" This is such an important question. We may be able to give ten reasons why the Philistines were poor farmers, but what does that matter? The message of God's Word must impact the hearers, and the preacher must prepare for that.
'A brief comment was made in the author's discussion of the priority of the text which caught my attention. He made the comment that at times the duty of the preacher includes "distilling the essence of a long passage or exploding the implications of a single phrase..." (pg. 52). This statement properly conveys the idea that not all passages require or deserve the same treatment. Each passage is unique. A historical narrative must be treated differently than prophecy, epistle, or psalm.'
As Chapell addressed study tools he made the point that commentaries should be used as checks, not guides (pg. 68). At times it is helpful to read study Bibles or shorter explanations on difficult passages in order to save oneself from hours of misguided research, but in most circumstances this is not necessary.'
Six critical questions were raised by the author in the chapter dealing with the process of explanation (pg. 100ff). It is easy to oftentimes focus on the single question, "what does the text mean," without pausing to reflect on "what concerns caused the text to be written." I also need to do much more work on what he calls the FCF (Fallen Condition Focus).'
'Overall I found his book to be the best of those I have previously read, and look forward to using it in the future.
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