Book Review: Matthew D. Kim, A Little Book for New Preachers

Kim, Matthew D. A Little Book for New Preachers: Why and How to Study Homiletics. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2020. 127 pp. Pb. $12.00   Link to IVP Academic  

This new addition to IVP Academic’s Little Book series focuses on preaching and teaching God’s word. Kim previous contributed Preaching with Cultural Intelligence: Understanding the People Who Hear Our Sermons (Baker, 2017) and is co-author of the forthcoming Finding Our Voice: A Vision for Asian North American Preaching (Lexham, 2020).

Little Book For New PreachersIn the introduction to the book Kim observes that he never felt he was a preacher. In seminary, he dreamed of living life in an ivory tower, as any good New Testament Skyler does. God challenged him during his seminary years to take preaching as “a glorious calling,” in the words of D. Martin Lloyd-Jones. For Kim, “Preaching is a privilege. God uses us week after week in the moment of preaching to make disciples who look more like a Jesus Christ…” (121).

Kim breaks the topic into three major sections. First, Why Study Preaching? In this section Kim deals with preaching as a “forgotten discipline.” In fact, preaching has a negative connotation in today’s evangelical church. Most churches are far more interested in developing worship experiences or other programs than the old-fashioned sermon. Many have observed the length of the sermon has been reduced radically in church is over the last 20 years. In fact, I would say most churches see the sermon as the “price you have to pay” to have a musical worship experience. As a result, preaching has become a brief devotional integrated into an entertaining worship hour.  For many pastors, preparing for a sermon is a burden. In order to preach a good sermon, a great deal of effort needs to be made and some pastors do not see this use of time as valuable in the overall busyness of ministry.

Second, Kim outlines the characteristics of faithful preaching. He begins with the discussion of faithful interpretation, with some suggestions on selecting passages topical versus expositional sermons and “twelve interpretive processes” which are necessary for developing a sermon. Based on Kim’s earlier work, includes a section on developing a “cultural exegesis.” The reason this is necessary is that there are wide cultural and generational gaps in most churches. Socio-economic and educational levels in most urban churches are diverse, making it difficult for a preacher to create relevant sermons. Kim quotes Keith Willhite, “listeners determine whether the sermon is relevant” (80). The preacher must take the time to address their congregation and determine what cultures will require immediate cultural exegesis. Essentially, he is calling for a faithful application of the scripture in the context of the culture in which the sermon is delivered.

Third, he develops the characteristics of faithful preachers. In his section on application, Kim encourages preachers to apply the text they are preaching first to themselves. In this section on the character of a faithful preacher, he discusses the warmth and directness necessary for preaching well. He recommends humility, realizing that the preacher is not a Superman, they must be themselves and they must like themselves. In addition, he warns against developing a “cult of personality.”  The final chapter of the book is perhaps the most important. Here he calls on preachers to pray for the Holy Spirit to lead their preparation and their presentation. It is quite likely that most preachers will pray for the spirit to guide them while they are presenting their sermons, but more rarely does the preacher daily pray for the Holy Spirit to lead their preparation time. I will encourage congregations to pray for their pastors in their preparation of sermons. If Scripture is challenging the pastor spiritually, then the pastor will preach the Scripture with much more power on Sunday morning.

Although this book is not a textbook on homiletics, it includes some basics for putting a sermon together. He also has included sufficient bibliography two point interested readers to popular manuals and textbooks for preaching in the twenty-first century.

A Little Book for New Preachers is an inexpensive book and would make an excellent gift to a student who is working hard on a ministry degree, whether in a Christian undergraduate program, seminary or at Ph.D level. Like other books in the series, the text is peppered with quotations from famous preachers and older preachers will find encouragement in this book.

NB: Thanks to IVP Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

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