Monday, April 23, 2007


A Faith to Proclaim

In 1999, Preaching Magazine ranked James S. Stewart as the best preacher of the twentieth century, commenting that his books on preaching ?have inspired tens of thousands of preachers to strive for greater effectiveness in their proclamation of God?s Word.? In A Faith to Proclaim, James Stewart focuses on the essential message of evangelism rather than sermon preparation or delivery technique. His pointers on proclaiming the essentials of the Christian faith should be read by all who want to be more effective communicators of the Christian message. James S. Stewart (1896-1990) was a gifted Scottish preacher who taught New Testament Language, Literature and Theology at the University of Edinburgh (New College). He also served as Chaplain to the Queen in Scotland and as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He authored many books, including Heralds of God, The Strong Name, and A Man in Christ.


Revd Kurt Iver Johanson, some sermons of James S. Stewart are now available: Walking with God is the title of this book.

Stewart is a prince — an articulate NT scholar, he was a professor who found a way to preach nearly every Sunday in Scotland.

His sermons, and I read through a bundle of them, are articulate, practicable, wise, and an excellent model for those of us who need a model of a classical form of preaching. Never informal; always sound of judgment and serious in focus.

I recommend that casual, young preachers buy this volume, read it, and learn from this wonderful preacher. What most of us need is not so much a new book about preaching, but some great examples of preaching. This is one such book.


"Born in 1893, the son of a popular Bible teacher in the YMCA movement, James Stewart was an acclaimed preacher both in his native Scotland and also in America. He served as Pastor of three Church of Scotland congregations, and then joined the faculty of New College, the divinity school of the University of Edinburgh.

Though I never had the privilege of hearing Stewart preach in person, I have listened, spell-bound, to some taped sermons, and have underlined many a memorable statement in those I have read in my library. He was a preacher's preacher, possessing gifts most of us can only dream of.

I appreciate his ministry for many reasons -- his sermons were thorough-ly biblical (he argued persuasively for expository preaching), erudite without being stuffy, eloquent though not ornate, moving but not cheaply emotional, eminently practical, often conscience-piercing, and above all, God-exalting.

Yet the thing I appreciate most is his commitment to the mandate of world evangelization. In his own preaching he did not hesitate to call men and women to personal faith in Christ, and he challenged his students and others to do the work of the evangelist. In his Beecher Lectures in 1953 he declared with characteristic directness, that there is "no place today for a Church that is not aflame with the Spirit who is the Lord and Giver of life, nor any value in a theology which is not passionately missionary" (A Faith to Proclaim, p.12). In an earlier book consisting of lectures on preaching originally given to his students, he wrote that "no Church is anything more than a pathetic pietistic backwater unless it is first and fundamentally and all the time a world missionary Church" (Heralds of God, p. 30). (William Hogan, Professor Emeritus of Preaching, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, MS)



Rediscovering Preaching: Preach the Word!

April 2007

By Denton Lotz, General Secretary

What is the state of preaching in your country or local setting? It seems that everywhere I go in the world there is a concern about the state of preaching. Some even question whether worship services need a sermon.

The fact is, every renewal in the church has been accompanied by good preaching. Jesus is our model preacher, and then the New Testament preachers, Paul and Peter, and the early Apostolic Fathers Chrysostom, Nazianzus, etc. After a 1000-year period of Christendom and the Dark Age of preaching, Martin Luther and the Reformation resurrected the sermon as central to Protestant worship. The Baptist tradition of preaching in the 19th century was influenced by George Whitfield and John Wesley. Of course, Charles Spurgeon became the classic model for Baptist preachers at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. Even today Spurgeon is a model. The great German Lutheran scholar and preacher, Helmut Thieleke, told his students, “Sell all that you have and buy Spurgeon.” He made popular Spurgeon's advice to young preachers in the book, Encounter with Spurgeon. (Every generation does not need to debate whether or not worship services need sermons. They do. But, the style of preaching varies and this is what young seminarians need to study.)

Throughout the history of the church there have been complaints about the inability of preachers to preach. Even during the Reformation, Luther complained that some preachers and their sermons were so boring that “They could not lure a dog from behind a warm stove.” The great Scottish New Testament scholar and preacher, James Stewart, complained that many preachers of his generation had “hoof and mouth” disease—“they wouldn't visit and they couldn't preach!” For example, today's young preachers are taught the “conversational method” of preaching, which often is existential and encourages stories of the pastor's daily experiences with family and church members. One of the problems with this type of modern preaching is that it ignores the golden rule of the sermon illustration—the illustration should not be greater than that which it illustrates! Preachers often become actors and think that the more laughs they have from the congregation, the better their sermon has been.

Preaching is basically, as Phillip Brooks stated, “The communication of truth through personality.” Every preacher is different, but what is needed today is faithfulness to the Scripture text and passion. Do you really believe what you are preaching? If so, preach it with the power of the Holy Spirit, prayer and the power of conviction. Basically the state of preaching is the state of a generation's spiritual depth, of the individual and the society. We need a new generation of Holy Spirit-filled passionate preachers who love Jesus Christ and will die to make Him known, loved and followed!

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