Insights from Zach Eswine’s book on Preaching
I really enjoyed Zach Eswine’s book, Preaching to a Post-Everything World, here are some highlights:
On the importance of illustration…
Eswine quotes Calvin Miller and says: “Jesus himself told lots of stories, and his sermons were full of images…. When asked, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ Jesus in effect does not say, ‘Let me give you three Hebrew roots on the word neighbor.’ What he does say is, ‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho….’ In other words he follows the question, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ with an immediate ‘Once upon a time’ and then launches into a story” (p. 61).
“Those who are precision oriented must learn to tell the stories of the text. Those who are poetic must learn to surrender to the precision of the text” (p. 108).
On the importance of modeling how to think about reality…
“When we preach we publicly model for a community how a human being is meant by God to relate to reality” (p. 85).
“The wise are actually interested in what people think. They listen. They collect the sights and sounds of the reality around them. Then they study, meditate, and arrange what they have collected…. The sage requires a meditative life. By this I do not mean a monastic life. Alert observation moves sage meditation into the streets and shops of the world, not away from them…. Observation, meditation, and description have a communication purpose” (p. 146).
“The wise not only search Yahweh’s Word for meaning, they also search Yahweh’s world” (p. 147).
“Every bit of text from the Scripture, every bit of creation, culture, and life becomes a means for making sense of reality with the eloquence of God… Sermon preparation is both an indoor and an outdoor endeavor” (p. 156).
“When we are read the news, watch a film, go to church, or listen to the voices of our community, we ask:
- What aspects of God’s authority does our community challenge?
- What sources of truth does our community deem credible?
- What do we require of one another that God has not required? What personal, church, and community images describe God as harsher than he actually is?
- What do we free one another from that God has clearly commanded? What personal, church, and community images depict God as less demanding than he actually is?
- What does our community offer to make life attractive, happy, wise, and desirable?” (p. 235).
On the importance of tone…
Eswine quotes from Warren W. Wiersbe and says: “’To preach biblically means much more than to preach the truth of the Bible accurately. It also means to present that truth the way the biblical writers and speakers presented it’ [Preaching and Teaching with Imagination, 36]” Then he goes on to say, “Faithful preaching accounts for both the truth and the style of the biblical text” (p. 104).
On the importance of Christ-centered preaching…
“According to Paul, the first essential for preaching is Christ. Regardless of the time and place in history that one preachers, biblical preaching is meant to be Christ-centered… Paul’s second essential for preaching is the prophetic (warning everyone)… Paul’s third essential for preaching is the catechetical (teaching everone)… Paul’s fourth essential for preaching is wisdom (with all wisdom)… Whether one preaches within a premodern, modern, postmodern, or post-postmodern landscape, the goal for preaching remains the same” (p. 105).
On the importance of adapting the message to the context…
“When the apostle Paul preached in an unchurched context, his message started not with God as Redeemer but with God as Creator (Acts 17:24). He was not concerned to quote a Bible verse for his sermon; he assumes no familiarity with redemptive history. In a preevangelistic way, Paul makes cultural connections. He highlights the biblical resonance found in the literature of the people (Acts 17:28). Notice that Paul speaks indirectly using all men and us rather than you. He also has an after-meeting in which further discussion can continue” (p. 109).
On the importance of realizing the Bible’s continued relevance…
“‘Every human being begins at the beginning, as his fathers did, with the same difficulties and pleasures, the same temptations, the same problems of good evil, the same inward conflict, the same need to learn how to live, the same need to ask what life means.’ [Edwin Muir] Regardless of generation or geography, people share common joys (Acts 14:17) and common temptations (1 Cor. 10:13). We can build a space station, but we struggle with the age-old issues raised by the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. Issues regarding the fruit of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit are no different today than they were yesterday. People are still people no matter where they live, what language they speak, what cart they push, or what car they drive” (p. 110).
“Idolatry is transcultural” (p. 223).