by Mark Dever
Four preacher-friends have come together not only to form a new ministry alliance but now have also written their first book. Mark Dever, CJ Mahaney, Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan III are from different churches and ministries, but together they have founded Together for the Gospel, a ministry seeking to defend and proclaim the Christian gospel.
Their book about preaching also includes contributions from John Piper, RC Sproul, and John MacArthur, all of them renown biblical scholars and teachers.
The 7-chaptered table of contents looks like this:
- A Real Minister: 1 Cointhians 4 – Dever
- Preaching Christ from the Old Testament – Duncan
- Preaching Christ with the Culture in View – Mohler
- The Center of Christian Preaching: Justification by Faith – Sproul
- Preaching as the Expository Exultation for the Glory of God – you guessed it, – Piper
- The Pastor’s Priorities: watch Your Life and Doctine – Mahaney
- Why I Still Preach the Bible after Forty Years in Ministry – MacArthur
The appendix contains a Together for the Gospel declaration of faith separated into doctrinal categories, or articles. You can learn a lot about why they wrote and what they’re concerned about by reading the appendix first. For example:
We affirm the centrality of expository preaching in the church and the urgent need for a recovery of biblical exposition and the public reading of Scripture in worship.
We deny that God-honoring worship can marginalize or neglect the ministry of the Word as manifested through exposition and public reading. We further deny that a church devoid of true biblical preaching can survive as a Gospel church.
I particularly enjoyed the chapters by Piper, Mahaney and Mohler. At times, I felt like Dever, MacArthur and Mohler were more mad than instructional. Their barely-disguised angst is directed at preachers and current Christian leaders who they describe as being market-driven and cultural-adopters rather than being informed and directed by God’s Word. Perhaps a re-read of the book might change this impression, and I certainly wouldn’t want that observation to keep you from reading it, because the book is definitely a great resource.
Any pastor/teacher/preacher needs to digest the material slowly. Much of it is a steak meant to be chewed slowly and thoughtfully. I agree with the overall assessment of the book that preaching in America today has suffered a serious decline as more and more churches and their leaders turn to a type of communication that is more intended to draw and keep crowds than it is to mature, grow and equip the body of Christ for God’s glory.
I had the blessing of growing up in churches where deep exposition was present, and I teach/preach that way today out of conviction. I too affirm that God’s Word is inherently powerful, and if you present it, interpreted rightly, to God’s people, then God’s Spirit will ensure that it doesn’t return to Him without accomplishing its purpose.
Many of the authors seem to be addressing the emergent movement as much as they are seeking to inform the reader. Especially in MacArthur’s chapter where he has several references to pastors who are practicing the opposite of what he would recommend.
He has strong words for those Christian leaders who follow a market-driven strategy of church growth rather than simply teaching and preaching the totality of God’s Word.
There have always been men in the pulpit who gather crowds because they are gifted orators, interesting storytellers, entertaining speakers, dynamic personalities, shrewd crowd-manipulators, rousing speechmakers, popular politicians, or erudite scholars. Such preaching may be popular, but it is not necessarily powerful. No one can preach with power who does not preach the Word. And no faithful preacher will water down or neglect the whole counsel of God. Proclaiming the Word – all of it – is the pastor’s calling.
What he mean by “the whole counsel” is simply every verse and chapter. He notes a distrubing tendency of pastors today to create series, self-help focuses, and other “sermonettes for Christianettes” that never progress through a single New Testament or Old Testament chapter. It’s a constant pulling-out-of-context approach to address topics that they feel like should be addressed. This is in contrast to expository preaching which seeks to allow the text to speak for itself. The latter requires careful study to determine context, authorial intent, historical background, and the principles being communicated.
All in all, the book has much to offer. Although relatively short, it has several profound implications for today’s church and preaching.