Top Five Books on Preaching

Let me begin this post, as I did my first ever Top Five books post, by saying these books will not guarantee a perfect sermon!

Nevertheless, reading books on hermeneutics, application, and theology in relation to preaching will aid us to better handle God’s Word. I hope and pray that these books will help us to become unashamed workmen, correctly handling God’s precious Word for the good of His people

1. Bryan Chapell – Christ-Centred Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon, (2005).

This is arguably the definitive book on preaching. It is a well researched, thoroughly informative and beneficially comprehensive text-book. Chapell succeeds in covering all the important areas of sermon crafting – exegesiCCPs, illustration, application, overarching point, titles and subtitles.

I believe that it has been fundamental in the re-emergence of expository, book by book preaching and for that we should be exceedingly grateful.

The constant search for Jesus from all Scriptures is of great benefit too for Christian preaching. However, the most helpful aspect for me personally was the idea of a ‘Fallen Condition Focus’. Chapell asserts that every passage addresses a fallen condition, and that seeking out this fallen condition focus gives us the big idea of a passage, giving the theme of a sermon and helping with application. I felt this helped to bring cohesion to my sermons.

2. Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert – Preach: Theology meets Practice, (2012).

This is a hugely helpful book as it is the best of two men’s preaching experience and skill condensed into one very readable book.

The final chapters of the book are one sermon from each man annotated by the other, and with follow up comments from the author of the sermon. This was a great insight into the thinking that goes on behind the final sermon and very intriguing to see one preacher critique and commend another.

The golden nugget from this book was undoubtedly the idea of preaching every book of the Bible from three levels. The high altitude consisted of the idea of preaching one sermon on the whole book. This is brilliantly demonstrated in Dever’s books The Message of the Old Testament and The Message of the New Testament. The middle altitude is working through a book in chunks – for example chapter by chapter for the epistles or bigger sections for books like Exodus or Isaiah. This allows more time to digest the message of a book while still moving through all of it. Finally, the lowest altitude which is slowly moving through a book literary unit by literary unit, sometimes just a few verses each sermon. This allows detailed exegesis to be present in the sermon and a great opportunity to open a congregation’s eyes to the textual work behind a sermon.

3. Dale Ralph Davis – The Word became Fresh: How to Preach from Old Testament Narrative Texts, (2009).

It is arguable that there is no better preacher on the Old Testament than this man right now!

This book is brief, and restricts itself to helping us preach Old Testament narrative.

While this approach may seem narrow, it is a vital one. Old Testament narrative is traditionally the genre of Scripture used to teach our children in Sunday School, kids clubs and youth groups – and sadly it is often taught with a moralistic slant. Therefore, Davis offers us a helpful corrective.

There are certain drawbacks to this book (primarily it’s length – it is short and much more would be welcome from Davis on this topic). Perhaps one which many will find difficult is Davis’ comfort in preaching a sermon from the Old Testament without mentioning Jesus. He offers a robust defence for his position, and although he may not win you over it is beneficial to be challenged to ensure how we get to Jesus from the Old Testament is legitimate.

4. Albert Mohler – He is not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World, (2008).

This book is not so much a practical help on preaching, but more along the lines of the theology behind preaching, and thus the confidence which should underlie our preaching. This is a good book to read if you feel that your preaching is a bit flat, or that your hearers do not appreciate your effort.

God is not silent, he is communicating and he has chosen to do that through stumbling, struggling preachers like you and I. What a comfort! What and encouragement! What a privilege!

Is there any higher task than communicating God’s message to his people? I dare say no, especially with the encouragement that God is not silent.

Additionally, Mohler’s insights on culture are always beneficial.

5. John Carrick – The Imperative of Preaching: A Theology of Sacred Rhetoric, (2002).

You could be forgiven for thinking this is a grammar book after reading the contents page, and while the titles of the chapters don’t illicit much excitement this is a very helpful book for those who desire to think deeply about constructing their sermon.

There should be many aspects to our preaching – indicatives, imperatives, exhortations, etc. Carrick dissects these aspects to our preaching and gives biblical and historical examples of that type of preaching. Having a sharper distinction between our exhortations and our imperatives will only be good for our listeners as they understand the truths they must accept, the commands they must obey and the joy which ultimately follows.

There are hoards of books on preaching – some excellent and some not so excellent. However, I am convinced that time spent reading any of the above books will not be time wasted. Indeed, it will be time spent to the benefit of both yourself and your listeners.


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