Reviewed by: Larry G. Mininger
Date posted: 09/07/2015
The Heart Is the Target, by Murray Capill. P&R, 2014. Paperback, 272 pages, list price $16.99. Reviewed by OP pastor Larry G. Mininger.
If you are not a preacher, please don’t read this book—you already know our weaknesses! But if you are a preacher, here are reasons why you might want to read this book:
1. It just might improve your preaching! This book thoroughly addresses how to apply sermons.
2. It is challenging. Capill will mess with your routine of sermon preparation and might cut down your prep time.
3. It is easy reading—not lightweight, but it communicates well.
4. It is inspiring and positive.
5. It is written for us—the OP type—by one of us (OK, he’s Australian, but…). He interacts with almost everyone worth reading on the subject of preaching—people you know and trust.
Capill observes that many sermons seem ineffective because they are aimed only at being faithful to the text, not at what God is aiming at. The goal should be “that as the biblical text is proclaimed, people will encounter God himself in a life-shaping way today” (p. 17).
Reformed pastors, says Capill, spend all their energies on exegesis, leaving little time for applying the message. And their applications tend to be add-ons. “Application must not be a subsequent addition to exposition but the end goal of the exposition. Biblical exposition itself must be applicatory in thrust” (p. 19).
So first, application should be the driving force of each step of sermon preparation. As you study your text, ask yourself, “What is the application that God was making to those who first heard this text?” Discover the life-changing purpose of your text.
Second, apply that truth to your own life before considering how you might apply it to your congregation. You probably do this as you pray over your work, but Capill wants this to be a deliberate bridge to application to our hearers. “The preacher’s life is the laboratory in which biblical truth is tested. Preachers must live the application before they can make it live in the lives of others. If the preacher has a narrow or superficial experience of biblical truth, his messages are likely to be narrow and superficial in their application” (p. 54).
Third, apply the truth that you have applied to your own soul to your people’s lives. Capill lifted my soul as he spelled out how application is made to the mind, conscience, will, and passions (pp. 115–16). “True Christianity is felt” (p. 126).
Then you can approach your pulpit and think, “I have a message from God for the people he has given to me to speak today.… I have something of importance to say that I believe will make a difference to how people think, act, and feel. I have been commissioned to say this.”
This is good stuff! Give Capill a chance to unfold his methodology. Your soul and your ministry may discover God’s intended applications.