Review: Pulpit Aflame

Eds. Beeke and Benge, Reformation Heritage, 2016, 188 pages, 4 of 5 stars

screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-4-01-53-pmWe named one of our sons Lawson, so I was eager to read a book penned in Steve Lawson’s honor. Foundations of Grace is among the most influential books I have read. He is in the top three preachers I have ever heard and has always been a model of kindness in his conversations with me.

Most striking about Pulpit Aflame is the lineup of contributors. It’s an All-Pro of preachers, a roster including MacArthur, Sproul, Ferguson, Beeke, and Thomas. Chapter one is a biography of Lawson’s life and ministry, with the next twelve chapters discussing the mandate, meaning, motivation, and method of preaching. 

Pulpit Aflame is a good, intro-level, overview of preaching. It’s a brief, A-Z snapshot of what solid, expositional preaching looks like. If you are seeking for something new, look elsewhere. The authors are too experienced, too grounded to be dernier cri. Biblical? Yes. Avant-garde? Not by a long shot.

Expect a lot of sound exegesis and pointed Puritan quotes (e.g. “Doctrine is but the drawing of the bow, application is hitting the mark”).

I thought the best three chapters were by Derek Thomas (Preaching as Transformation), Ferguson (Preaching as Worship), and Mbewe (Delivering the Sermon), probably with Thomas taking first prize. While I’d recommend the book, don’t expect a slew of new insights but instead a cask of time-tested truths.

Excerpts:

  1. “Much like ancient church homilies in style, [Calvin’s] sermons had no divisions or points other than what the text dictated.” (47)
  2. “Preaching is teaching plus To suggest that preaching is application is to overstate the case…” (75)
  3. “Truth is a form of application. It is application to the mind…” (77)
  4. “It is often misleading to divide sermons into exposition followed by application…It is particularly galling—a practice that needs to be stopped immediately—when preachers say, often because time is running short, ‘I need to make a few quick points of application now…’” (78)
  5. “Angry verbal [preaching]…scolds and shouts at people. It is a form of emotional abuse.” (179)
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