TITLE: Preaching the Whole Counsel of God: Design and Deliver Gospel-Centered Sermons
AUTHOR: Julius J. Kim
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015, (240 pages).
As far as author Julius Kim is concerned, there are four parts to this. Preaching must begin with the author's discovery of the truth; progressing to discerning the truth; designing the message; and finally delivering the text.
- The herald must discover the truth of the text according to the human author.
- The herald must discern Christ in the text according to the Divine Author.
- The herald must design a sermon that is true, good, and beautiful.
- The herald must deliver the sermon for attention, retention, integration, and transformation.
Discovery of the trust is the important first step of the whole process. The foundation of this involves the four steps of praying, selecting, reading, and meditating. Prayer is the most important component because it is where the preacher becomes open to the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit. In prayer, the selection of the passage becomes clearer. Discernment also involves the audience awareness. Kim maintains three words of advice: Pray, Pattern, and pastor. Pray is awareness of God's presence. Pattern is awareness of a logical flow. Pastor is awareness of the people's needs. In reading, one studies the contexts of the verses selected. In meditating, one hones in on the key emphasis of the passage. The task of study leads to the practice of interpretation. Kim shows six steps of linguistic analysis to determine what the texts actually say. The literary analysis leads us through three contextual aspects: chapter, book, genre. The life setting analysis brings out the timing and the reasons surrounding the texts.
Discernment is not merely trying to uncover treasures in the text. It is about seeing Christ's presence and looking from the eyes of the Author. In fact, preaching is essentially about Christ. Kim is convicted that preaching Christ is biblical, foundational and practical. Giving examples from Scripture, he shows from both the Old Testament and New Testament how we can discern Christ. What are the people, the plot, the places, and the particulars of the passage? What are the circumstances and facts surrounding the inclusion/omission; the repetition; and the dialogue? There are strategies for preaching from the narratives; understanding the features of poetry and prose; even a sample sermon to bring it all to life. On the New Testament, Kim is critical of sermons that tend to use the texts to describe compassion, mercy, and virtues, especially those that leave out the emphasis on the cross and of Christ.
Designing the sermon has three central themes. First, there needs to be truth magnified (firmitas, strength, solidity, firmness). Second, there is the good purpose behind it (utilitas, purpose, functionality, utility). Third, there is beauty (venustas, beauty, delight, proportion). Through the use of a "story arc," one can design the sermon structure based on these themes. Great speakers will not only preach sermons that captivate the mind. They will move the heart to action.
In delivering of the sermon, one needs to catch attention, maximize retention; facilitate integration; and be open for transformation. He shares about the neuroscience of preaching, how the understanding brain function enables the preacher to design and deliver the sermon well. Using both verbal and non-verbal communications, the next big step is practice, practice, and practice.
There are lots of gems in this one book that not only describes the entire process of preaching, but also a compendium of resources for sermon preparation and delivery. Using different methods and multiple resources, preachers have a practical handbook to guide them. In preaching Christ from all of Scripture, one must be careful not to read into the text what it is not. That is one reason why I would caution readers and preachers not to be too impatient to insist on seeing Christ literally in all the Scriptures. Sometimes, we need to use metaphors or to describe how the texts manifest a type or represent Christ in some way. Other times, the texts are more direct. Genre understanding will help us. For instance, in the book of Job, how can we read Christ in this book of suffering? In Esther, where is Jesus in a book where the name of God was not even mentioned? What about the passages that showcase lots of violence? Surely, Jesus is not advocating holy war that involves genocide and infanticide? As a starting point, I would suggest both. First, read the text and interpret it as is. Second, learn to build a bridge with Christ shining light on the texts.
Do not rush through the book. Read it once through. Jot down pointers. Make notes for future references. Use it as a guide for sermon preparation. Through study and practice, one will gradually learn that preaching Christ more and more will become more natural and less stressful as Christ is formed in us. There is no substitute for preparing sermons that are Christ-centered. The best preparation is a Christ-transformed heart.
Dr Julius Kim is Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Seminary California, with a passion for homiletics. He also serves as Associate Pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church in Escondido.
Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.
This book is provided to me courtesy of Zondervan Academic and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.