A Little Book for New Preachers | Book Review


Matthew D. Kim is associate professor of preaching and ministry at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, as well as director of its Haddon W. Robinson Center for Preaching. He describes A Little Book for New Preachers as “a primer or introduction to preaching focusing on the characteristics of what makes for effective sermons and faithful preachers” (p. 14). Kim divides his material into three parts:

  1. Why Study Preaching?
  2. Characteristics of Faithful Preaching
  3. Characteristics of Faithful Preachers

In a cultural era in which preaching is often denigrated, Kim makes a case for both the practice and formal study of preaching in Part One. After outlining several reasons for preaching, Kim concludes: “Preaching is essential to the life of God’s people because understanding and applying the Word of God is essential” (p. 52). The goal of preaching, in other words, is “to make disciples” (p. 44, cf. Matthew 28:19–20). Preaching is not the only way to do this, of course, but the Church has long found it to be an important, if not the most important way to do it.

Part Two turns to three characteristics of “faithful preaching: interpretation, cultural exegesis, and application. The material on interpretation and application is good. I especially appreciated the chapter on cultural exegesis, however. “Every congregation consists of people from different personal experiences, cultures, and backgrounds,” Kim writes, “even if outwardly they seem homogeneous” (p. 72). And that applies doubly outside a church’s four walls. The goal of cultural exegesis is “not to compete with the culture but rather to comprehend it for the sake of effective proclamation of God’s Word” (p. 73). I encourage pastors to pay attention to this chapter especially, and to consider reading Kim’s longer book, Preaching with Cultural Intelligence (Baker Academic). Those of us who preach need to know the cultural blind spots we all too often have when reading and preaching the Bible.

Finally, Part Three identifies three qualities preachers need to have to be effective: being pastoral and loving, being a person of character and integrity, and being prayerful and Spirit-led. “Preaching ability and charisma are inadequate to sustain a long-term, fruit-yielding ministry,” Kim writes (p. 106). Character is needed. In its absence, preachers are tempted to “fall into various destructive patterns of sin, which abruptly curtail their ministries and hurt their families and congregations” (p. 107). At the end of the day, the quality of the preacher matters as much as the quality of his or her sermons. Your whole speaks, not just your words.

Although Kim wrote his Little Book for “new preachers,” old preachers—which includes me—can read the book profitably as a refresher on homiletical basics.

Book Reviewed
Matthew D. Kim, A Little Book for New Preachers: Why and How to Study Homiletics (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2020).

P.S. If you liked my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

How to Improve Your Preaching in 2020 | Influence Podcast


Preaching and teaching God’s Word is an essential skill in pastoral ministry, whether you’re a senior pastor, youth pastor, children’s pastor, or the like. As with any skill, your preaching can improve with intentional practice. In Episode 205 of the Influence Podcast, I talk with Matthew Kim about how to improve your preaching in 2020.

I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host.

My guest is associate professor of preaching and ministry at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, as well as director of its Haddon W. Robinson Center for Preaching. He is author of A Little Book for New Preachers (IVP Academic) and Preaching with Cultural Intelligence (Baker Academic), among other books.

This episode of the Influence Podcast is brought to you by My Healthy Church, distributors of Balanced Budget, Balanced Life:

People don’t plan on having money troubles, which is exactly the problem: they don’t plan! Rollie Dimos shows you how to make a biblically sound financial plan and stick to it. Get back the time and resources you need to stop stressing out about money, and start enjoying the balance of a truly abundant life.

For more information visit BalancedBudgetBalancedLife.com.

Shepherding God’s People | Book Review


Dr. Siang-Yang Tan is professor of psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, and senior pastor of First Evangelical Church in nearby Glendale. In Shepherding God’s People, he examines “biblical and theological foundations for pastoral ministry” (Part 1) and “areas of pastoral ministry” (Part 2). The author himself describes the book this way in the Preface:

The book presents a biblical perspective on pastoral and church ministry that emphasizes faithfulness and fruitfulness in Christ (John 15:5), through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8; Eph. 5:18; 6:10–18), made perfect in weakness, brokenness, and humility (2 Cor. 12:9–10) rather than in success or excellence of the wrong kind … . Each chapter includes a substantial review of the literature available on the topic as well as my own biblical, theological, psychological, cultural, and personal reflections.

Baker Academic published the book, and I imagine its intended readers are seminarians preparing for ministry. Although it is well, clearly, and simply written, it at times feels like an introductory survey rather than a how-to guide. Being nearly 25 years out of seminary — I attended Fuller but did not have Dr. Tan as a professor — I found this off-putting at first.

But as I kept reading, I realized that I was benefitting from the author’s extensive reading of the relevant literature, especially as it was focused through the lens of his own pastoral ministry. I came to regard the book as the equivalent of a refresher course on the theology and practice of pastoral ministry. An added bonus is that each chapter includes an extensive list of recommended readings. You can use the book as an introduction to best practices and the recommended readings as a guide to what you should read next, should a specific topic interest you.

As a Pentecostal minister, I appreciated Chapter 2 especially. It is titled, “The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit as Crucial and Essential for Pastoral Ministry.” Though Dr. Tan does not write from a classical Pentecostal perspective, this chapter reminded me of the breadth of the Holy Spirit’s work as well as the many points in common between Pentecostal and evangelical theologies of the Spirit.

Book Reviewed
Siang-Yang Tan, Shepherding God’s People: A Guide to Faithful and Fruitful Pastoral Ministry (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019).

P.S. If you like my review, please click “Helpful” on my Amazon review page.

P.P.S. I wrote this review for InfluenceMagazine.com. It is posted here by permission.

Why Grace Is More Liberating Than You Believe | Influence Podcast


“There is power available to you that can unlock your soul and all of its hidden longings,” writes John Lindell—“the buried hopes of the past, the strength needed for the moment, and the dreams for a beautiful future. That is the power of the best news: the gospel is able to change your life at this moment, even now.”

In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I talk with John Lindell about this power, which is the power of God’s grace. Lindell is pastor of James River Church, a multisite congregation in Springfield, Missouri. He is devoted to seeing the local church thrive and standing boldly for the cause of Christ. Most recently, Lindell is also of Soul Set Free: Why Grace Is More Liberating than You Believe, just published by Charisma House.

If you’d like to listen to John Lindell’s thoughts about expository preaching, listen to Episode 97 of the Influence Podcast.

P.S. This podcast is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com with permission.

How to Read Galatians for Preaching and Teaching | Influence Podcast


Paul’s letter to the Galatians is brief but theologically profound. It centers on the nature and implications of the gospel itself. The letter was born out of Paul’s controversy with the so-called Judaizers, and it continues to be a source of controversy among scholars today because of the so-called New Perspective on Paul.

In this episode of the Influence Podcast, I talk to Craig S. Keener about how to read Galatians for preaching and teaching. Keener is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, and a world-renowned New Testament scholar. He is author of numerous books and commentaries, including a commentary on Galatians, forthcoming from Baker Academic on May 21, 2019.

ADDITIONAL CRAIG S. KEENER RESOURCES

P.S. This is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com with permission.

How to Read the Former Prophets for Preaching | Influence Podcast


“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” writes the apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16.

While all Christians agree that Scripture is useful, we don’t often understand how to use it. Today, I’m starting a series of occasional podcasts designed to help pastors improve how they read Scripture so that they can preach Scripture better. I’m George P. Wood, executive editor of Influence magazine and your host.

My guest today is Rick Wadholm Jr., associate professor of biblical and theological studies at Trinity Bible College and Graduate School in Ellendale, North Dakota. Rick received his PhD from Bangor University in Wales, and is author of the recently published book, A Theology of the Spirit in the Former Prophets. We’ll be talking about reading the Former Prophets for preaching.

P.S. This is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com.

Preaching with Cultural Intelligence | Book Review


America is increasingly diverse, and so are American churches. Matthew D. Kim wants “to prepare twenty-first-century preachers for the realities of congregational diversity in North America and beyond.” To do so, he outlines a “homiletical template” to help preachers more effectively take into account their communities’ diversity in their preaching. He focuses specifically on diversity of denominations, ethnicities, genders, locations and religions. Preaching with Cultural Intelligenceis a must-read for preachers who want to effectively minister to people different from themselves.

Book Reviewed
Matthew D. Kim, Preaching with Cultural Intelligence: Understanding the People Who Hear Our Sermons(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

P.P.S. This review is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.comwith permission.

P.P.S. Check out my Influence Podcastwith Prof. Kim about the book!

The Preacher’s Catechism | Book Review


Preaching is the most important public ministry of pastors. Many books describe how preachers can improve their craft. The Preacher’s Catechismis not one of them. Instead, it focuses on how preachers can improve their character.

Lewis Allen offers this reminder of the greater importance of character to craft in his Introduction:

“And yet, having all of these tools [to improve preaching skills] will not ensure that you are a preacher after God’s own heart, someone who is really serving those who listen to you. Skills have an essential place, but more essential to our calling are a heart and mind captivated by God and his gospel.”

In other words, the heart of preachers is the heart of preaching.

Allen bases his counsel in The Preacher’s Catechismon three convictions:

  1. The church needs preachers who last and thrive.
  2. Preachers must understand how preaching works, and how their own souls work.
  3. The Westminster Shorter Catechism is an outstanding resource for the heart needs of every preacher.

The book organizes its material around 43 questions modeled on that catechism.

The first and second convictions should be uncontroversial points among evangelical Christians. I found the third conviction a bit of a stretch, at first glance anyway. I am Pentecostal — Arminian and egalitarian to boot — so what could I learn from a catechism produced by high Calvinist English Presbyterians? (Allen himself is a Calvinist Baptist.)

A lot, it turns out. Allen’s use of the catechism sheds light on heart issues that allChristian ministers need to address.

For example, consider his repurposing of the catechism’s teaching on the Ten Commandments. The catechism asks, “What does the _____ commandment teach us?” (with first, second, third, etc. filling in the blank). Here are Allen’s answers, which follow the order of the commandments (Exodus 20:2–17):

  1. You shall preach as a love expression to the Lord your God.
  2. You shall not make a preaching idol of your image or of anyone else’s.
  3. You shall honor the name of God as you preach.
  4. You shall rest from finding your justification in your preaching, and rest content and safe in the finished work of the living Word of God, Jesus Christ.
  5. You shall honor those who preached the Word of God to you, and obey what they taught you.
  6. You shall not use your ministry to harm in any way.
  7. You shall not be unfaithful to your ministry by failing to love those you preach to.
  8. You shall not withhold your heart and soul from the hard work of preaching.
  9. You shall not say anything untrue in your preaching.
  10. You shall not set your heart on another’s ministry and gifts.

There is far more to The Preacher’s Catechismthan these reworked commandments, which appear in Part 3, titled “Loving the Word,” of a four-part book. Part 1 is titled “The Glory of God and the Greatness of Preaching,” Part 2 “Jesus for Preachers,” and Part 3 “Preaching with Conviction.”

In fact, there is more to this book on preaching than preaching. Part 4 includes helpful chapters on baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Preaching may be a pastor’s most important public duty, but it is not the only one. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are New Testament ordinances, God-given means of grace that too many evangelical pastors — including Pentecostals — neglect.

Allen closes the book with this statement: “Our preaching will never satisfy us. It isn’t meant to. Let’s give our hearts to God.” In many ways, that’s the core message of this excellent little book.

Some books make for a good read, once. The Preacher’s Catechismis a volume I think I’ll take up and read again. And then again.

Book Reviewed
Lewis Allen, The Preacher’s Catechism(Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

P.P.S. This review is cross-posted from InfluenceMagazine.com with permission.

Missional Public Opinion Researchj


Twenty-some years ago, I served as a counselor at a weeklong Christian summer camp for abused and neglected children. For chapel, one evening, a puppet evangelist told the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22) as an example of the Father’s willingness to sacrifice His Son for us.

A graduate student in theology at the time, I remember thinking there was something wrong with the ventriloquist’s analogy. Wouldn’t Jesus be like the ram God provided, not Isaac? I thought. Then I noticed how quiet, still, and wide-eyed the kids were. Slowly, I realized that many of these kids had witnessed horrific acts of violence perpetrated by their parents or guardians against them and their siblings. In fact, over the course of five years as a counselor, two of my campers — brothers — had witnessed their dad murder their mother and kill himself.

In my opinion, this well-meaning puppet evangelist failed to communicate because he didn’t understand the audience he was preaching to. Ministerial education focuses on teaching pastors the proper exegesis of the biblical text, but in my experience, we need more help in the proper exegesis of our culture.

That’s why I’m an avid reader of public opinion research. When Pew, Gallup, Barna, or similar organizations release a new study, I pay attention. Credible data on what people believe and value helps me better understand the people and culture God has called me to serve as a witness to the gospel.

Obviously, public opinion doesn’t determine what you and I say. The Bible is God’s inspired, inerrant Word. Our message about Jesus Christ comes from its pages, not from the pages of a newspaper or website.

On the other hand, public opinion can help us shape how we share our message. Think of how the apostle Paul preached the gospel to different audiences in the Book of Acts. In Pisidian Antioch, Paul preached a sermon to fellow Jews in the synagogue on the Sabbath that was a master class in the exposition of Scripture (Acts 13:13–52). In Athens, on the other hand, Paul cited Greek poets more than Scripture in his dialogue with Greek philosophers (Acts 17:22–34).

What accounts for the difference? Paul knew that the Jews shared his commitment to Scripture. So, he reasoned from the Bible with them. On the other hand, he knew that Greeks didn’t share his commitment to Scripture, so he reasoned to the Bible with them. In both cases, what Paul said was substantially the same, but how he said it was radically different.

Late last year, Barna Group released Barna Trends 2018, which is chock-full of good information about how contemporary Americans both inside and outside the church view culture, life and faith. I was particular impressed by the feature article, “The Truth about a Post-Truth Society.” It identified five reasons why Americans have such a hard time agreeing about anything: (1) distrust of authority, (2) an erosion of the sacred, (3) a battle between feelings and facts, (4) unbelievable (“fake”) news, and (5) the rise of tribalism.

The challenge for pastors and church leaders is how to cultivate faith in a culture characterized by systemic distrust. We can only begin to do this when we understand the reasons for that distrust, which comes by paying careful attention to our audience’s beliefs, values and practices. The better we understand them, the better able we will be to share the gospel with them.

Unlike that well-meaning puppet evangelist, who was never invited back to camp.

Book Reviewed:
Barna Group, Barna Trends 2018: The Truth about a Post-Truth Society (Grand Rapids, MI Baker Books, 2017).

P.S. This article originally appeared in the March/April 2018 edition of Influence magazine and appears here by permission.

P.P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: