It was not the beginning of the book, or the end of the book, that stopped me in my tracks, but the middle. Jim Scott Orrick, one of the writers of Encountering God Through Expository Preaching, tells a quick story of surveying audiences about what mode helped lead them to Christ:
“How many of you were converted through a cold-turkey, one-on-one evangelistic encounter?” This is a question that I sometimes ask classes and congregations when I am about to make a point about the importance of preaching. In answer to my question maybe 1 percent raises their hands.
I ask again, “How many of you were converted through reading a gospel tract?” Occasionally someone will raise a hand.
“How many of you were converted through reading the Bible or a book about the Bible on your own?” Again, few hands are raised.
My final question is, “How many of you were converted as a direct result of preaching?” Consistently, over 90 percent of hands go up. (112)
Orrick goes on to acknowledge that this is not to minimize personal evangelism or books about the Bible, but only to assert this truth: our preaching deeply matters. It is time and time again the method God uses to melt the hearts of men and women everywhere. It is critical for preaching pastors to care about their preaching, to do it well and with excellence to God’s glory. We mustn’t waste our time in the pulpit, and the time of the audience listening. This is, more often than not, God’s way of giving His Word to His people.
Encountering God Through Expository Preaching by Orrick, Brian Payne, and Ryan Fullerton, is an important commentary on the ins and outs of expository preaching for the local church. These aren’t household names to most people, which is to the book’s advantage in my opinion. These are educated and experienced preachers, no doubt, but all hold different ministry roles and provide a well-balanced dialogue about what preaching is (or could be) to the common man.
It is not your typical homiletical book, though. Many new themes are discussed. Perhaps most important, the first chapter suggests that expository preaching can only be God-honoring when it is presupposed by a holy man. “When it comes to preaching, the man matters” (3). This is an important first step — how can we expect to preach with conviction, calling people to repent and pursue Christ-centered living, if we are not doing the same?
There are a variety of chapter topics discussed, some with theological emphases (“The Sermon and the Spirit”) and others with more practical emphases (“Preaching without Notes”). Encountering God moves beyond the normal “Observation, Interpretation, Application” formula to present a conversation answering the kinds of questions preachers are really asking. “Is all topical preaching off-limits?” “How should I go about preaching through books?” “Is caring about my delivery vain?” “Should I preach with a manuscript?” All of these questions and more will find answers in Encountering God.
Overall, I think it’s a great and updated resource for any kind of preacher in the local church to consider. Whether you are a senior or associate or youth pastor, or even a volunteer Sunday school teacher, you will benefit from this book! If you believe that preaching matters (and it does), you’ll no doubt find this book useful for your present and future preaching endeavors.