Thinking About Preaching
THINKING ABOUT PREACHING
Michael J TownsendThis is not a text book on how to preach, although there is much wisdom and help for the preacher. It is aimed chiefly at those ‘who want to explore whether God is calling them to preach’; those who want to test their gifting as ‘apprentice preachers’.
In recent years there has been an increasing number of books on preaching, some of them practical aids and others more systematic and theological. All are welcome at a time when the phrase ‘to preach’ is so often used negatively and dismissively as a term of abuse. Modern communication, educational method and the supposed narrowness of the contemporary attention span have too often undermined confidence in the art of preaching, with sermons reduced to five minute homilies, ten minute cosy chats and superficial commentaries on the state of the nation. Talking heads, unless you are Arnold Bennett, Billy Connolly or Victoria Wood, are assumed to be boring or condescendingly ‘preachy’.
The Church of England has not always helped by so concentrating on the presence of Christ in the breaking of the bread that too often there has been little expectation of finding and hearing him in the opening of the Word. We need to regain our confidence in the Ministry of the Word and a powerful and relevant proclamation of Good News in the call to preach.
Michael Townsend is himself a very experienced preacher and Superintendent Minister of the Grimsby and Cleethorpes circuit. He firmly believes that preaching is a call, gift and challenge from God and a promise of the Holy Spirit’s power. It is much more than a skill to be employed. If God has called, and the Church has recognised that calling, then the congregation has a duty, need and vocation to listen and respond.
However, this is not a text book on how to preach, although there is much wisdom and help for the preacher. It is aimed chiefly at those ‘who want to explore whether God is calling them to preach’; those who want to test their gifting as ‘apprentice preachers’. Experienced preachers who want to review their own progress in and renew enthusiasm for their ‘glorious task’ will also be greatly helped.
This is a deeply thoughtful and simply written reflection on the preacher’s calling. Townsend avoids technical language and is always accessible. He recognises that the preacher is a ‘real human being’, who is affected by the things that affect the congregation, and who has ‘doubts and uncertainties as well as sins and weaknesses’. This is all part of the honesty, self awareness and humility required of the authentic preacher.
I warmly recommend this concisely written book to any who are exploring or renewing their vocation as preachers. It will be especially useful to Church of England Readers and Methodist local Preachers.
Reviewed by Revd Canon Alex Whitehead
How to Preach - and preparation aids