Have you ever heard a sermon that seemed powerful and drove you to action? What made that sermon memorable? What was it about the sermon that stirred your heart to action and obedience?
Perhaps it was exhortation.
Preaching For A Verdict by J. Josh Smith is a much-needed reminder of the importance of the role of exhortation in preaching. It is not enough that preachers give information, illustration, and application. These are vital elements of a good sermon, but they fail to call the reader to do anything about what they've just heard preached.
Exhortation is not exactly absent from modern preaching or books written on preaching—it's just not emphasized. Many times, exhortation is considered to be application. That is, the text is preached, great illustrations show how to put the text into action, and then congregants are called to consider some ways to put it into practice. Some sermons feature strong exhortations to believe the gospel or respond in repentance. Other sermons just end with suggestions.
We need more exhortation.
While not all preachers will agree with his argument or may find it overstated, Smith attacks the issue from a variety of angles. He provides theological and biblical foundations for the importance of exhortation in preaching. He also provides examples of exhortation in both testaments of Scripture. He does an excellent job of pointing out key passages of exhortation in the various genres of Scripture. If a future, expanded edition of this book is ever released, it would be great to see even more examples from the Word of God.
He ends the book with 3 chapters on some practical aspects of exhortation. Not only does he show preachers how to find exhortations in passages of Scripture, he also gives seven examples of how to use exhortation in the various genres of Scripture. Finally, he offers three ingredients for exhortation.
All in all, this a great book on preaching with exhortation. I personally think preaching needs more exhortation. With the resurgence of expository preaching and reformed theology, there can be an intellectual bent if we are not careful. The best way to take a sermon from the preacher's study to the congregant's life is to rely on the Spirit and preach with more application and exhortation.
Some pastors may be offended by receiving a book on preaching, but I would be thrilled. This is a great resource for seasoned pastors as well as new preachers. Putting this into practice may not grow your church numerically, but God will use exhortation to draw His people to repentance and obedience through the preached Word.
I received a free copy of this book. I was not required to leave a positive review.
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