Like many, I’ve worked a variety of jobs over the years. There was the quintessential paper route, in high school I did odd jobs around a funeral home, and later sold clothing at a retail outlet. In college, I washed cars for two different dealerships. Since then, I’ve taken on other job titles like soldier, arborist, and currently, pastor. And my simple observation from working these jobs is that my understanding coming into each improved as I gained some experience. Makes sense, right? I had no idea it would be so hard to collect money from some of the customers on my newspaper route! I really didn’t have a clue what an Army officer actually did until I got my gold bar. And I didn’t realize the potential complexity of cutting down trees. The same principle holds true for the job of preaching. Newly minted preachers usually don’t fully understand the entire scope of the job. So Matthew D. Kim has written a helpful guide for those taking up the profession of preaching. It’s called A Little Book for New Preachers: Why and How to Study Homiletics. And in this review, I’ll survey the contents and then offer my evaluation.
A Little Book for New Preachers is tidily divided into three parts consisting of three chapters each.
Part one shows the value of preaching. In chapter one, Kim builds a case for the importance of preaching. God wants it, and people need it. The second chapter reminds the preacher of the historical legacy of glorifying God through preaching. And the third chapter argues that preaching is the central means of Christian discipleship.
Part two explains what makes for faithful preaching. Each chapter covers a different component: biblical interpretation, cultural exegesis, and practical application.
Part three explains what makes for faithful preaching. These three chapters each cover a different quality of a faithful preacher. A faithful preacher has pastoral warmth, integrity, and a robust prayer life.
Pretty simple. And that’s by design. Kim efficiently and effectively covers the basics of preaching.
The book’s title says it’s “for new preachers,” but really, it’s for everyone who wants to grow in their preaching—padawans and grizzled veterans alike. It’s not a comprehensive manual for crafting your sermons. It’s more preliminary than that. You could call it a prolegomena to preaching. It establishes the important first things a new preacher should know. At the same time, it can remind more experienced preachers of what they might have lost sight of. Anyone across that spectrum of experience can and should appreciate this book.
Here’s what I found most beneficial.
First, Kim reminds his readers how important preaching is. Especially in seminary, it’s easy to adjust your motives and priorities and come out thinking the academic world of biblical studies and theology outranks preaching in importance. Instead, though, Kim argues, “Preaching is the capstone of biblical studies and theology” (29). Preaching isn’t small potatoes. It’s where the theological disciplines converge and the wisdom of God is displayed (1 Cor 1:21). Preaching is paramount.
Second, if preaching is the capstone, the capstone of preaching is the tricky step of application. The text must be applied to the preacher first and then to specific people and cultures. These are the kinds of words new preachers need to read.
Third, you’ll find some of the hallmarks of good exegesis and exposition. Kim is an advocate of authorial intent and learning the biblical languages.
Some other good points he brings into the mix include his view that preaching is the primary means of discipleship. He raises an excellent point on the danger of pigeonholing pastors into specialty niche positions (e.g., youth pastor, college pastor, missions pastor, etc.) where they can’t serve the entire church. Kim covers a lot of ground in such a short book. And his concluding chapter on prayer will convict any pastor guilty of neglecting prayer and not depending on the power of the Holy Spirit.
The book’s structure is clear and easy to follow. Each chapter usually begins with a clever introduction on anything from Ikea furniture to myrmecology then quickly gets to the point. The pages are laced with insightful, encouraging quotes drawn from what other preachers have had to say. When it comes to physical design and aesthetics, the glossy black squares on the front and back covers are neat. It’s nice when a publisher considers texture and visuals. I will say I’m no fan of the pull quotes interspersed throughout the book. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to whether they’re highlighting a quote that’s already appeared or one that’s yet to come. In my opinion, these grey and black blocks in the middle of some of the pages are an unnecessary distraction. Other than that, I’m always going to disagree when a book refers to a preacher as “her” (78). And there’s a typo in a footnote on p. 69 (“Kregal”).
As a preacher, it’s a habit of mine to read books on preaching. This is one I’m glad I read. As you might deduce from its title, A Little Book for New Preachers is little, measuring in at just 4” x 7”. It’s eminently portable, although I suppose it might be awkwardly small for some readers. But there’s nothing negative to say about its short length of just over a hundred pages. Kim doesn’t waste space. He’s included all the right stuff. Every page packs tremendous value making this is a book every preacher, new or old, should read.
Thanks to IVP Academic for providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.