Prepared to Preach offers an accessible and concise aid for all those who have been challenged to preach or feel a growing compulsion to do so. This is an essential read for all those who are wondering precisely where to start in preparing to expound God's word, whether it is for the Divinity Student, the layperson, the parachurch worker or the short-term missionary. This is a comprehensive yet digestible guide. Scharf focuses on the attitudes and skills those inexperienced in preaching need to develop, whilst at all times re-enforcing that although there are a number of things you, the preacher, must do, it is what God does that is at the heart of preaching. This book illuminates to us how to prepare our minds to preach, how to prepare the congregation to hear and obey God's word, how to prepare the message God gives you to preach, and also how to deliver the message you have prepared.
Throughout it all Scharf is motivated by a tremendous concern to equip preachers so that they might clearly express God's word.
“To preach the Word, then, is to declare in his name and by his power, from one or more texts of the Bible, what God placed there in order to achieve his ends for his glory. Or to put it negatively, we fail as preachers when any source other than the Bible supplies our message, when our sermon’s thrust fails to respect the thrust of the text, or when our aims, either immediate or ultimate, are contrary to the text’s purposes. When we fail in any of these ways we have not given voice to God’s word. We must let God’s voice be heard in the assembly and among the nations. ‘Preach the Word!’ (2 Tim. 4:2).” (Pages 13–14)
“Since God has gone to these lengths, two things follow: he will hold us accountable for all he has given us, and he will get the glory when the word achieves its purposes. When his word—proclaimed by his redeemed creature, who is gifted and empowered by his Spirit, deployed by his Son, affirmed by his church, and accompanied by his presence—bears fruit, it is only right that he get the glory. The fact that he holds us accountable is a reminder that we must still prepare.” (Pages 23–24)
“You and I cannot separate what we say from who we are. We do not preach ourselves (2 Cor. 4:5), but we must prepare ourselves to preach, because proclamation is inevitably visual as well as verbal. Who we are will come through whether we want it to or not. Our lives either taint the gospel or adorn it.” (Page 32)
“Teaching emphasizes providing instruction and emphasizes the content of what is taught. Preaching builds on this foundation of patient instruction (2 Tim. 4:2) and urges ‘acceptance and compliance’.” (Page 19)
I read this book last night and it is very, very good. It manages in 174 easy to read but rich pages to cover the scope of preparation for preaching and teaching the word of God. So good is this book that in time I anticipate giving a copy and (if I can) requiring that all the teachers at Grace read it and interact with me about it. It mixes the important disciplines of prayer, study, examination of our own lives, etc. as they relate to being a mouthpiece for God. It is theologically rooted, emphasizing God's call and preparation of the preacher-teacher. And it is interested as much in the content of the Text as the hearers—a very difficult balance to strike. He includes an excellent six question analysis to evaluate the thrust and function of a passage. He briefly shows how to use a commentary. And best of all, I think I can hand this to a very typical Christian with no formal Bible education, and they will, with work, be ready to give a correct devotional to their family at home or teach a shepherd group at church.
—Andrew Franseen, Pastor
The keynote that Scharf strikes throughout is preparation: first the preparation of the preacher, and second, the preparation of the message. Preaching is not mere explanation—it is proclamation of the living and enduring Word of God. In the detailed chapters on preparing the message Scharf excels. His careful and logical approach will surely result in better preaching—there is no higher commendation for a book on preaching.
—Robin Sydserff, Minister, St. Catherine's Argyle Church of Scotland, Edinburg, Scotland