Preach or Perish: a Review

Posted on January 9, 2009 
Filed under Resources

Preach or Perish: a ReviewACL President Dr Mark Thompson reviews Preach or Perish, edited by Don Howard –

There is a quite vigorous and exciting debate about preaching taking place in Sydney at the moment. All the participants are convinced of the importance of preaching. They know how critical effective preaching is to the life and growth of Christian congregations. Yet there seems to be a widespread sense of a need to lift the standard of preaching across our city in order to honour our Lord and edify his people.

On the one hand, dry and disengaged literary studies are boring the socks off some congregations. It feels as if pages are being read from a commentary with little concern about how this part of the Bible addresses life as a follower of Christ in the twenty-first century. On the other hand, the life-giving word of God can be so easily swamped by the repartee of the Christian entertainer. The skill of the preacher becomes the focus of attention rather than the power, love and holiness of the God whose word he dares to speak.

Every preacher I know wants to preach better and there is no end to the list of people who want to tell us how. Yet few combine a commitment to handling the Bible responsibly with a concern to communicate effectively as consistently as the contributors to this new book edited by Donald Howard. Donald is known as a trainer of preachers, a pastor concerned that God’s people are built up in faith by the effective application of the word of God to the lives of real people. He is just as disturbed by trite story telling and moralising and as by undigested and poorly communicated profundity. And he is a long-standing member of the ACL!

This collection of brief essays by preachers who have given their lives to helping men and women come to faith — and more, to grow in maturity in faith — through hearing and responding to the word of God, is full of wisdom and help for preachers of all ages. It demonstrates yet again that it is not only the latest internet gurus who know what makes good preaching and what hinders it. Theology and practice come together in an extraordinary way which will challenge old preachers and set good patterns for young ones.

With contributions from the editor, John Chapman, Peter Jensen, Marcus Loane, Donald Robinson, Kel Richards, Dudley Foord, David Cook, and many others, readers are treated to insights into preaching from preachers who have honoured Christ and served his people, not just in a short burst of popularity, but consistently over many years.

If you want to improve your preaching or improve your appreciation of preaching and all that it involves, you’ll benefit from reading this book. It is worth learning the lesson that good principles are lasting principles. I warmly commend it.

Mark D Thompson.

(“Preach or perish – Reaching the hearts and minds of the world today”, edited by Donald Howard, is available from MooreBooks for $25.)