Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Worth chewing over

How good is it that Phillip Jensen, who has been called "a once in a lifetime preacher" should put together his thoughts on preaching so that others may benefit?

In this book, you get Phillip Jensen's ideas, skilfully organised by Paul Grimmond, one of Jensen's admirers and followers.

Grimmond is well-placed to do this, because he has listened to Jensen speak for more than 20 years and has put his principles into practice in his own speaking ministry.

Tim Challies says that the image Jensen uses to depict preaching is too complicated and not one that people will be able to remember. He contrasts this with the simple, effective and memorable image of the trellis and the vine in Colin Marshall and Tony Payne's earlier companion volume to this one. He expects that image will be used by many to depict the administrative work in Christian ministry (trellis work) versus the task of drawing God's people into his kingdom through evangelism (vine work).

However in this book, the straightforward image used of an archer (the preacher) and his arrow (the sermon) is made more complex by Jensen's depiction of the arrow's head, shaft and feathers as illustrations of the elements of a sermon as message, exegesis and theology. But is it as hard to grasp as Challies makes out? I think that it is unpacked fairly clearly, and is a useful device for reminding us of all that is needed to create a successful message which challenges listeners to action.

The most helpful aspect of the book is the definition of preaching which forms the backbone of its contents. In chapter two Jensen gives us the preacher's mission statement:
My aim is to preach the gospel by prayerfully expounding the Bible to the people God has given me to love.
Through the rest of the book, Jensen explains his image of the arrow, showing how a Bible teacher needs to craft his sermon to make it achieve its goal, and takes apart his mission statement, bit by bit, and finally reassembles it.

Every speaker would benefit from reading The Archer and the Arrow because it compels you to think through the process of constructing a talk, while reminding us that the Christian preacher's aim is to enlist followers of Jesus, not to show people how clever we are.

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