Reviewed by: Dale A. Van Dyke
Expository Preaching, by David Strain. P&R, 2021. Hardcover, 144 pages, $11.50. Reviewed by OP pastor Dale A. Van Dyke.
Expository Preaching, by David Strain, is a short but extremely worthwhile read on a topic that is often overlooked. While there are many books detailing the what and how of expository preaching, there are very few devoted to the why. As Strain explains, this book is “designed to establish the basic biblical and theological foundations for expositional preaching in a Reformed church” (17). It is a smallish, unintimidating book that serves its purpose well. This is more of a conversation than a tome, intended primarily for the listening audience.
The book is comprised of four chapters with an easy-to-follow logic. The first chapter explains how expository preaching is rooted in the very nature of Scripture itself. Chapter 2 builds on that foundation by emphasizing that expository preaching “is the servant of the Bible’s text, and this means that it serves not only to convey the text’s meaning but to accomplish its ends” (45). Strain then gives eleven excellent arguments in favor of such preaching. In chapter 3, Strain convincingly explains why expository preaching is uniquely suited to be the primary means by which the church carries out its threefold task of worship, evangelism, and discipleship. This is where modern evangelicals, and increasingly the Reformed flock, are confused. They tend not to identify preaching itself as an act of worship, evangelism, or discipleship, but an add-on or support for them. Strain makes a compelling case that faithful expository preaching is uniquely and powerfully all three. Chapter 4 acknowledges that effective preaching requires attention from both the preacher and the hearer. Strain gives helpful counsel on how to get the most benefit from a sermon. Each chapter concludes with thoughtful “Questions for Further Reflection.”
The book concludes with a lengthy (thirty pages) Q&A section dealing with practical questions like, “What can I get from expository preaching that I can’t get in my quiet time?” (111); “Why do I need to come to church since I have access to the best preaching online?” (113); or “Won’t my children miss out since preaching like this is often over their heads?” (128). I found the questions to be very relevant, and Strain answers them in a practical and persuasive way.
This is a little book with an important message for both preachers and laity alike. We can easily lose the vitality of our practice by simply failing to understand and explain the reason behind it. Yes, we believe in expository preaching—but why? Without a clear answer to that question, we are inviting formalism and robbing God’s people of the confidence they could have that this is not something we do because of personal preference or religious tradition but because of a thoroughly biblical conviction. That conviction will be a tremendous encouragement and create a God-honoring expectancy when the pastor steps forward to preach the Word.
This book would be beneficial for training elders or interns. It would inspire a much-needed conversation for a Sunday school class or small group study. I plan on using it for the new members class. Highly recommended!
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