Two trends are to be avoided in preaching. On the one hand a subjectivism and entertainment orientation for the crutch of popularity; on the other, an intellectualism, a zimmer frame encouraging impressions of depth and thoughtfulness. We need guidance and help for our preaching that doesn't send us skittering down the road of the latest fad adapted from the world.
Richard Baxter is regarded as one of the Christian church's models of pastoral practice, many books have been written about his pastoral skills and methods to aid the modern pastor, but Baxter was also an effective preacher. It is one of the reasons why his ministry showed that spark of vitality that changed his surrounding community for the better.
Murray Capill set out to discover Baxter's secret. From a thorough study of Baxter's preaching ministry he has constructed a useful framework for us to follow. Not theoretical or historical in orientation, this volume seeks to inspire and assist pastors to greater preaching vitality.
“Preaching can all too easily be spiritually arid even when it is biblically substantial. The opening up of a text in its historical, literary and grammatical context does not necessarily produce a message of life and power.” (Pages 11–12)
“Finally, experimental preaching is marked by a concern to stimulate greater godliness in the hearer” (Page 18)
“‘You are not simply imparting information, you are dealing with souls, you are dealing with pilgrims on the way to eternity, you are dealing with matters not only of life and death in this world, but with eternal destiny.’4 He went on to say that the chief end of preaching is to give people a sense of the presence of God: ‘I can forgive a man for a bad sermon, I can forgive the preacher almost anything if he gives me a sense of God, if he gives me something for my soul, … if he gives me some dim glimpse of the majesty and glory of God, the love of Christ my Saviour, and the magnificence of the Gospel.’” (Pages 13–14)
“Second, there is a concern to address people’s experience of the truth under consideration” (Page 17)
“The more fundamental crisis concerns the lack of spiritual vigour in much preaching. It is the crisis of preaching that is powerless: preaching that fails to deeply convict sinners, fails to convert the lost, fails to sanctify saints, fails to produce deep and lasting change in people’s lives, fails to overwhelm people with sheer majesty, grandeur, excellency and beauty of God, and his only Son, Jesus Christ. It is the crisis of preaching that, for all its relevance, innovation or soundness, is devoid of the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Page 12)
Capill makes a timely challenge to those who say that all preachers need to do is rightly to analyze Scripture. Baxter saw that there must be a thorough understanding of the spiritual issues in a text. The author highlights the man who saw himself as ‘but a pen in God's hand'. The book shows us what a mighty pen he was.
—Jonathan Wood, The Banner of Truth