A Vision for Preaching, Abraham Kuruvilla, Baker, 2015, ~200 page paperback
I love preaching. Mostly I love listening to preachers preach – and am saddened when the slot in a service reserved for a sermon is instead filled with an anecdotal or informative talk, rather than a lively and Spirit-filled exposition of God’s word. Occasionally I try to preach – drawing on my education and experience of years of listening to preachers of various traditions – but I am by no means ‘a preacher’, except when invited. Because of both of these things, I’ve recently come into contact with the work of Abraham Kuruvilla, Professor of Christian Preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. If the Baptist moniker puts you off, however, read on, because this book is simultaneously faithfully Baptist (As I understand it!) and refreshingly exciting.
This is a medium length book of around 200 words – that takes Kuruvilla’s dense vision for preaching and unpacks it over 9 chapters or so. His vision (deliberately a vision rather than a mere definition) is thus:
‘Biblical preaching, by a leader of the church, in a gathering of Christians for worship, is the communication of the thrust of a pericope of Scripture discerned by theological exegesis, and of its application to that specific body of believers, that they may be conformed to the image of Christ, for the glory of God – all in the power of the Holy Spirit’.
As one of my preaching teachers/inspirations might say, ‘boom’!
I agree pretty wholeheartedly with this vision/definition for preaching, and would strongly recommend the book for three reasons.
- Kuruvilla is focused on discipleship: of the preacher (in prayer, preparation and application) and of the congregation. This is not preaching just as a skill or art, but something that does something meaningful in the lives of God’s people on both sides of the pulpit.
- Kuruvilla is thoroughgoingly theological: whilst he’s not afraid to challenge shibboleths or traditions, he’s deeply invested in both careful biblical textual work and taking the tradition and history of the church seriously. This is perhaps best seen in his Trinitarian focus and emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit in preaching – often forgotten in evangelical circles, or misunderstood in more charismatic ones.
- This book is eminently practical. Whilst his larger A Manual for Preaching (Which I need to revisit!) is more of a ‘how to do this’, each chapter here ends with an example of the big idea applied to a biblical text (from Mark’s gospel). This makes this book something that can ‘cash out’ for the preacher, as well as making it something that could be profitably worked through by a preaching group.
I would recommend this book to a few different groups of people.
- Firstly, those who have perhaps been preaching for a long time and want to be reinvigorated. As a long time-listener, this clarified some of my convictions on preaching, and helped me be more confident in the things I find frustrating about what sometimes occupies the place of preaching in the contemporary church.
- Secondly, those thinking about the point and purpose of preaching, whether as interested listeners (Christians who like reading this kind of thing) or as students, or as church leaders wondering about what they should be doing.
- Thirdly and most excitingly, this is a book that I think new preachers or those starting to preach would benefit from immensely. It would be a great book to gather a small group of emerging preachers with, and read it together, over several weeks, discussing it.
On Goodreads, I gave A Vision for Preaching 5/5 – and it is in my view that good. This is a book that takes preaching seriously, takes the Bible seriously, and invites us (in an enthusiastic way, which can be lacking in books on this sort of topic!) further up and further in to the Kingdom of God.