The Glory of Preaching

Johnson, Darrell W. The Glory of Preaching: Participating in God’s Transformation of the World. Downers’ Grove, IL: IVP, 2009.

I’m pleased to recommend a new book by my colleague Darrell W. Johnson, called The Glory of Preaching: Participating in God’s Transformation of the World.I love the sub-title of the book which appreciates the fact that preaching is not so much what we do but what God is doing. Preaching participates in the work that God is doing to transform the world. And make no mistake, God is in the business of transforming the world, often working through our preaching.

“Something always happens…” These are the first words of the book. “Whenever a human being, Bible in hand, stands up before a group of other human beings, invites the gathered assembly into a particular text of the Bible and as faithfully as possible tries to say again what the living God is saying in the text, something always happens. Something transformative, empowering, life-giving happens.”

Of course it doesn’t always feel that way, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t so. Johnson is aware of the boldness of his claim, but he stands by it. “It is,” he says, “the glory of preaching.”

I love Johnson for this claim. While one could argue some of the technical aspects of his homiletic process, a biblical preacher dare not argue with this core conviction. We cannot afford to.

Johnson opens the book with the vision of the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37 emphasizing that the preaching of the word of the Lord is living and active, powerful and creative. He continues, working through the parable of the soils in Matthew 13 in order to affirm that, “When one stands under God’s word, something happens. Not because of the condition of the preacher’s heart, but because of the life-giving power of the word. The word itself (or, himself) softens hardened hearts, deepens shallow hearts, integrates cluttered hearts and flourishes in receptive hearts (p. 51).”

Johnson’s approach tends toward classic Exposition. While he values orality as the means and medium of preaching, making excellent use of the work of Walter Ong and Robert Jacks, yet he also encourages the development of fairly traditional outlines (following Bryan Chapell).

The strength of Johnson’s work is the encouragement to the preacher to inhabit the word and to see preaching as a task where we invite the congregation to join us in the word. The preacher is seen as the leader who brings the congregation along to an encounter with God within his word.

“The preacher’s role is not that of an expert but that of a guide (as at an art exposition, or as the leader of an expedition), pointing to, calling attention to the essential aspects fo the reality about what the text is speaking. As the preacher does this, something happens: the preacher and congregation begin to participate in what the risen Jesus, through the Spirit, is doing in and with the text (59).”

That ought to motivate us, the next time we have opportunity to preach.