Saturday, 1 August 2009

Christopher Ash, The Priority of Preaching, PT Media/Christian Focus, 2009.

Christopher Ash is Director of the Cornhill Training Course in London, a course designed to train preachers and Bible teachers. In this book he considers the role of preaching today. Aware that some regard preaching as outdated, he begins by considering the alternatives to preaching that can be found in evangelical churches (for example, Bible studies, discussion groups). What these alternatives usually lack is authority, whereas biblical preaching comes with authority, based on God’s Word, to a gathered congregation listening to what God has to say to them through a Spirit-filled preacher.

The effects of such preaching are explained in two subsequent chapters. First, such preaching transforms the church. It brings to listeners an awareness of the reality of God, an understanding of their sins (which implies that the preacher knows his listeners), it aims for a response of faith (to obtain this response, the preacher must preach with clarity, urgency and passion), and is accompanied by confidence in the sovereign grace of God.

Second, such preaching mends a broken world. For a number of reasons, society has been and is fractured. In the church God is in the process of regathering people, a goal that will be achieved in heaven. Meanwhile he deals with many of their problems through regular listening to biblical preaching as he reshapes their lives in a community, which in turn enables a congregation to witness to the communities around it.

The book also contains an appendix detailing several blessings of consecutive expository preaching. They have been stated many times, so I will not list them. He also has perceptive comments on three demons (his word) that hinder or frighten many preachers: they are relevance, entertainment and immediacy, but you will have to buy the book to find out what he says.

This book is not long, but why read a long book if a shorter one can tell you what you need to know? Sometimes those who preach need encouragement as they persist in declaring God’s Word to small gatherings of people. This book reminds such of the task to which God has called them. Indeed the author reminds them that their regular preaching in ordinary local churches has great significance for the development of God’s kingdom. If you need a boost as you serve the Master as a preacher, this book will give you one.

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