The call to preach the Word of God is the highest calling of the pastor. For centuries preachers have recognized that it is not enough just to open ones Bible and speak your mind on a passage and call it preaching. When opening up the pages of Scripture we recognize that there is a way of interpreting, developing a sermon and delivering it that is most faithful to the text. Some might call this package expository preaching. Most books on preaching only focus on one or two of these parts. What is needed is a comprehensive book that presents the material in a way as to show how they all work together.

With the goal in mind to bring together hermeneutics, homiletics and delivery under the same roof Daniel Akin, Bill Curtis and Stephen Rummage have written Engaging Exposition. This book seeks to lay out a methodological strategy for hermeneutics and homiletics to work in harmony. Hermeneutics is done in the service of homiletics and homiletics is dependent upon good hermeneutics while both are packaged in good delivery.

The entire book is centered on developing the main idea of the text (MIT) hermeneutically and homiletically while following up with some tips on good delivery. Bill Curtis writes the section on hermeneutics, Danny Akin on homiletics and Stephen Rummage on delivery. The intended relationship between hermeneutics and homiletics that the authors wish to convey is succinctly summed up in these words by Curtis

The study of a text is incomplete if it fails to assess its significance for today’s listeners. However, attempting to discover the significance of a text, without first gaining a thorough understanding of the author’s intended meaning, will be equally incomplete. (p. 13)

The first section of the book deals with hermeneutics. Throughout this section, Curtis covers the basics of hermeneutics that one would find in any standard hermeneutics text book such as genre, historical/geographical/theological context, genre specific outlines, characters, languages and the MIT. Since this section only covers about 120 pages the discussion is basic and most pastors will find much of the material repetitive to their hermeneutics classes and further reading. The difference in this discussion of hermeneutics is the intentional desire to help the preacher do their hermeneutics with their homiletics in mind. Throughout Curtis’ discussion of the basics of hermeneutics he weaves in the idea that this first step to preaching is not an end in itself. It is servicing the homiletical step.

The second section of the book deals with homiletics. Again, since this section only covers about 125 pages, the discussion is brief and basic. Topics such as illustrations, introductions, applications and conclusions are all discussed. It is here that the reader will begin to see how the book is written with the harmonious relationship between hermeneutics and homiletics in mind. Here, we move from the MIT hermeneutically to homiletically. Page 128 is perhaps the best page in the book and almost worth the price of the book alone. Akin lays out the grand plan of the books aim with the help of a triangular diagram. The outline of the book follows a seven step process:

  1. Study the Scriptures – “Flesh”
  2. Structure the Scriptures – “Skeleton”
  3. The Main Idea of the Text (Hermeneutical focus)
  4. The Bridge – Moving from the Then of the text to the Now of the audience.
  5. The Main Idea of the Text (Homiletical focus)
  6. Structure of the Message – “Skeleton”
  7. Teach the Scriptures – “Flesh”

In my opinion, this is the best outline of the relationship between hermeneutics and homiletics I have ever encountered.

Rounding out the book is section three in dealing with the delivery of the message. While it may be one of the last things a preacher thinks about investing time in honing their skills at, message delivery is important because “no matter how careful you were in your exegesis and interpretation and no matter how skillfully you put together your message, your sermon will be evaluated on the basis of how you deliver it.” (p. 249) Delivery is the packaging that hermeneutics and homiletics come in when it comes to preaching. Throughout this final section, Rummage addresses the basics of message delivery by touching on subjects like how delivery works between the preacher and the listener, proper speech technique, speaking with your body and voice and the age old discussion of how and whether to use notes when preaching.

My only critique of the book is not so much in its content but in its range of use. While the authors don’t state they desire it to be used in hermeneutics classes I don’t recommend it. Further, while young pastors can greatly benefit from this (especially if they have only had one or two homiletics classes) most of the book will be unnecessary repetition for many seasoned pastors who will have (at least should have) experienced the relationship between the three areas discussed in this book and taken steps to improve them.

What Engaging Exposition has done is shown the reader that hermeneutics is not an end in itself, homiletics will fail if not built on a good hermeneutical foundation and good delivery skill matters if you want the MIT to be understood and effective for the intended audience. This book will be of great benefit for homiletics teachers and students in both college and graduate classes.

NOTE: I received this book for free in exchange for a review. The words, thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

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