To preach Jesus from the Bible, among Christian and non-Christian neighbors, has more to do with our being human, as we imperfectly but truly behold the loveliness of God than it does with our being a homiletician, who flawlessly prepares and effectively delivers a powerful sermon. Content is absolutely crucial, but it must be accompanied by a well examined life that is above reproach. With this helpful book, Tony Merida doesn’t take long before he draws our attention to this foundational truth. After quickly introducing us to those characteristics which make an expository preacher effective, he slows preachers down and invites us to look first at our lives. The expositor’s message (Part 1), in other words, must follow from our prior attention to the expositor’s heart (Part 2).
We take an attentive look at our inner lives by noticing what we believe and how we live this belief (“Watch Your Life and Doctrine,” chapter 2). Then we examine what we find lovely (Christ and the Scriptures, chapters 3–4). Preaching begins then with an ordinary life, rooted in a divine calling, demonstrated through a practical dependence upon the Spirit of God (Rely on the Spirit’s Power; chapter 5), practiced by real prayer (“Cultivate a Vibrant Prayer Life,” chapter 6). We must also learn to pay attention to where our appetites entice us toward false glories (“Preach and Teach for God’s Glory,” chapter 7). Such forgery glories have nothing to do with the glory of the one who showed us his mercy and met the demands we would not, for a reconciliation we could not earn but desperately needed.
Seasoned preachers and students of the ministry will both find this triune recovery in our preaching refreshing. We preach Jesus, through the Spirit’s power, for the glory of God, according to his Word, rooted in a life of prayer and out of a life of love. Since Augustine introduced his book on interpreting and communicating the Scriptures with a treatise on love, it has been rare for the rest of us to follow suit. Likewise, many studies have shown how barren our preaching books are when it comes to sustained attention to the work of the Spirit of God in preaching. By giving us pages in his book that point out love and the Spirit of Christ, Merida offers an important model for this generation of preachers. Furthermore, by interacting with a community of preaching voices, past and present, he also models for us a community of learning, that each of us humbly needs.
Now, out of this personal love for God and with our language of prayer to God in a community, we are ready to consider the expositor’s message. Preachers will find this section practical and helpful because Tony takes each aspect of sermon preparation and delivery in their typical order. First, we study the text (chapter 8). Second, we unify the biblical theme in light of its redemptive thrust in Christ (chapter 9). Third, we outline the biblical text (chapter 10). Fourth we develop the functional elements (chapter 11). These functional elements consist of transitioning from our exegetical preparation to our communicative purposes, tending to the issues of explanation, illustration, and application. Finally, we pursue how to introduce and conclude the message we’ve prepared (chapter 12), and then communicate it to our audience (chapters 13–14).
Pastors will appreciate the various practical examples, the helps for doing exposition in non-pulpit contexts, including funerals, the brief historical sketch of preaching and the sermon evaluation forms to help seasoned preachers refresh and rookie preachers learn. Ministry leaders who communicate the Scriptures in cultural pockets saturated with de-churched, unchurched or pre-churched neighbors will appreciate the chapter on Contextualizing the Message.
I heartily recommend this book as a textbook for classrooms and a handbook for mentors to use in preaching cohorts. While a plethora of books on the topic of preaching exist, Merida has proven to be a helpful resource (see also the Christ-Centered Exposition series of preaching commentaries, of which Merida serves as one of the editors) to understand both the spiritual and practical dimensions that are involved in preaching the Word. Merida has provided us with a clear, reliable, and helpful guide.