Dr John Frederick, Lecturer in New Testament reviews Haddon Robinson’s book Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages.
One of the things we’ve been doing at Trinity College Queensland is talking about books that have been influential to us and books that we use when we teach. One of these books is Biblical Preaching by Haddon Robinson that I use in a class called “From Text to Sermon”, a look at preaching Thessalonians and interpreting Thessalonians.
This book will help you become not only a better preacher and a better communicator, but also a better writer. Essentially, the book teaches you how to go from presenting a multitude of ideas in a 15 to 20-minute sermon to presenting one major key theme that you derive from the biblical text and then apply and explain to the contemporary setting.
The effect is that instead of giving people all these little factoids that then hang together or don’t hang together, you give them one thing that they can chew on and walk away with, and you learn how to state it and explain it in a memorable way.
One of the reasons I love using this book is because I got to take a class with Haddon Robinson when he was teaching at a seminar I attended in Massachusetts, USA. This was a time when I had never preached in my life and I was terrified to do so. Haddon Robinson’s presence was so powerful that I was almost afraid to speak in class. Although he was a gentle person, he was a competent and skilled teacher.
I remember one time he said, “Hey you in the front row, tell me John 3:16” as he wanted to hear how I communicated it, but I totally forgot John 3:16. It was quite embarrassing because it’s one of the most popular verses in the Bible.
That moment illustrated for me that when you study the skill of preaching and the task of preaching it’s intimidating, and many people think they’ll never be comfortable or even enjoy preaching.
One of the things I learned through this book is a way of preaching that is not only comfortable but enjoyable, that allows you to focus on the key aspects of the text so you don’t have to sit there with a manuscript and read it for 20 minutes. You can embody that, write it out and go into the pulpit or in front of the classroom with no notes to deliver the passage with conviction and power. Which I think is the exact way we need to talk to people about the gospel and about the Christian faith.
People aren’t interested in being read a laundry list of ethical ideas or even a really interesting lecture on a Sunday morning, that’s really what we’re supposed to be doing in the classroom.
What people are needing in this time—especially in our post-Christian culture—is our men and women to speak clearly about what the Word of God says. To speak it not only as a set of ideas but to speak it as something that changes their individual lives and their communal life, now, in the present.
When we preach it’s less about talking to people about the Bible and more about talking to people about themselves from the Bible. That’s one of the things that I’ve learned from this book and I would highly recommend it. The book is available to borrow from the Trinity Theological Library.
Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages