Serving God’s Words: Windows on preaching and ministry, edited by Paul Barker, Richard Condie and Andrew Malone (IVP, 2011)

Peter Adam

Last year at Melbourne Uni Christian Union I was able to take a preaching course with Peter Adam, then principal of Ridley Melbourne. He is one of the teachers I have the greatest admiration for. Serving God’s Words is a Festschrift honouring his faithfulness to Christ and those whom he has served over many years. The book was released last month and I scored a free copy off my Dad (who was one of the contributors).

The book is a collection of twelve essays on preaching and ministry by scholars and church leaders close to Peter. You can see the full list of contents here. Excepting the one written by my dad, there were three standout chapters.

Firstly, William Taylor’s exposition on 1 Timothy which deals with ‘preaching that achieves an evangelistic end’. By this he does not mean evangelist sermons – where the preaching is directed primarily towards nonbelievers – but rather preaching that shapes an entire congregation to be fit for evangelism. When preachers rely only on evangelistic preaching, Taylor says, they fail to meet the needs of the whole church with the result that ‘the congregation fails to grow up and the preacher becomes the only evangelist in the congregation’. He explains three emphatic points in 1 Timothy that are directed towards growing a congregation towards an evangelistic end: (i) a ‘gospel heartbeat’, (ii) godly leadership, and (iii) godliness in the congregation.

Secondly, Peter Jensen’s chapter on preaching the judgment of God in response to natural evil. He takes two examples of this, Danny Nalliah claim that the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires were God’s judgment on the legalisation of abortion and a sermon given in 1829 at St James, Sydney. The latter was given by Bishop William Grant Boughton Broughton on Isaiah 46:10 and responding to a recent drought. Jensen weighs up both approaches and gives an insightful perspective on the issue itself as well as how it should be preached.

And thirdly, Vaughan Roberts’ chapter on lessons from the life of Charles Simeon. Simeon (1759-1836) was a leading evangelical clergyman whose ministry was chiefly aimed at students and the training of gospel workers (not unlike Peter Adam). Roberts does a fantastic job of summarising the key features of Simeon’s preaching style and gives great practical advice for contemporary preachers. I have just begun thinking about a number of sermons I need to prepare and I found this chapter immensely helpful and I would be keen to reproduce it for other young preachers.

Many of the other chapters were also great, but those were the ones I found particularly helpful. The audience for Serving God’s Words is probably going to be limited to those in ministry, but I do think it has a lot to offer lay people as well.