Book Review: “Christ Centered Preaching” (Bryan Chapell)

Christ Centered PreachingDr. Bryan Chapell previously served as the president and professor of practical theology at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri and is currently the senior pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Preoria, IL. He served in pastoral ministry for ten years before he began his tenure at Covenant in 1986. Chapell earned a BSJ in journalism, English literature, and American History at Northwestern University, an MDiv. in pastoral studies at Covenant Theological Seminary, and a PhD in speech communication at Southern Illinois University. He has written several books including The Promises of Grace, In the Grip of Grace, and Holiness by Grace. Chapell and his wife, Kathleen, have four children, Colin, Corinne, Jordan, and Kaitlin.

The Purpose of the Book

Chapell wrote, “The ultimate aim of Christ-centered preaching is not to burden preachers with a new science of interpretation but to release them to preach the grace of all Scripture that secures and enables relationship with the Savior – making preaching a joy to our hearts and strength to God’s people.” His aim in this book is to encourage preachers to preach Christ in all the Scriptures because it is the union with Christ that brings hope, joy, strength, and peace.

Organization and Content

This book contains steps and instructions on preparing and delivering expository sermons that are Christ-centered. Chapell accomplishes this by dividing the chapters up into three sections: (1) Principles for Expository Preaching, (2) Preparation of Expository Sermons, and (3) A Theology of Christ-Centered Messages. Each section deals with a different aspect of the preacher’s task and Chapell offers guidance for the overall process of exposition.

In the first section (Principles for Expository Preaching), Chapell focuses primarily on a theology of expositional preaching. He accomplishes this by examining the biblical witness concerning the task of preaching as well as the necessary ingredients for exposition sermons. There is a discussion concerning the Scriptural precedent of expository preaching as well as the importance of God’s Word in the preaching process. His goal in this section is to examine the mandate in Scripture for expositional preaching and lay the groundwork for a discussion concerning the preparation of expositional sermons.

In the second section (Preparation of Expository Sermons), Chapell examines the steps that must be taken to prepare expository sermons. This section is the most basic in the book and it is really a nuts and bolts look at the expository method. Chapell emphasizes that preachers must have a system to follow that enables them to discover what the text means and aids in identifying the best way to preach that text to a group of people. He focuses on the necessity of great exegesis and relevant application with this approach. The overall goal is to communicate God’s truth in a way that transforms people’s lives.

In the third section (A Theology of Christ-Centered Messages), Chapell spends a great deal of time focusing on what he believes is a problem in a majority of contemporary preaching. He believes that every sermon must address the “Fallen Condition Focus” of the text so that the redemption message can be proclaimed. Preachers must be certain that they are not simply preaching a moralistic message. They must be sure to preach the message of grace that can only be found through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

There are also numerous appendixes at the end of the book that address preaching and pastoral issues. These appendixes specifically touch on matters that Chapell did not address in the text but need to be addressed. Each appendix focuses on an aspect of the preaching/pastoral ministry and answers questions that might arise out of the text.

Personal Evaluation

One of the greatest accomplishments of this book is that Chapell offers an expository method that can be easily followed. He describes this method in great detail and it is a method that every preacher can use within his ministry. Another positive aspect of this book is the pastoral heart with which Chapell approaches preaching. It is evident that he is passionate about biblical preaching that changes lives. This is refreshing and offers encouragement to pastors as they read the book and reflect on their own ministries.

The greatest weakness of this book is that it is extremely long and repetitive. Chapell spends a great amount of time reiterating things that he has already said previously in the text. Even though there is a great deal of good information, Chapell did not need to expend the number of words he did. Pastors will recognize this as they read the book and it could cause them to decide not to finish the text. This would not be beneficial to the average pastor because the thrust of Chapell’s book is not seen until the last section in the book.

This book, overall, is a great work for pastor/preachers. Those who desire to preach Christ-centered expositional sermons will find it to be an exceptional work. Chapell passionately pleads for pastors to preach Christ in all Scripture because a relationship with Him is the only true hope in this world.

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Daily Reflections (10-21-13)

– Thom Rainer’s post “Seven Reasons Your Church Needs to Go on a Diet” is helpful. This quote is a gem, “Unfortunately, many church leaders equate activities with godliness or ministry fruitfulness…Sadly, some of the busiest churches actually diminish discipleship fruitfulness.” As pastors and church leaders we would do well to take an honest look at how busy our churches are and whether or not that busyness equals kingdom effectiveness.

– I am writing a blog post about trusting God in the midst of discouragement and this YouTube clip of Rick Warren really spoke to me. Jerry Fallwell once said, “You do not determine a man’s greatness by his talent, wealth, education or determination but you determine a man’s greatness by what it takes to discourage him.” Man, that is good stuff!

– I listened to Michael Hyatt’s podcast, “Sleep and Productivity,” today. Ben Franklin once said, “There will be plenty of time to sleep once you are dead.” Even though this sounds good to us productivity geeks, Michael Hyatt makes it clear that this is not the case. Listen to the podcast and be challenged.

Book Review: “I Am A Church Member” (Thom Rainer)

I received a copy of Thom Rainer’s book, I Am A Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference, in the mail (out of the blue!) and took some time to read it a month or so ago. This is a short book but one that was extremely helpful. In fact, I thought it was so helpful that I purchased enough copies to give one to every family in our church. As I preached through a series on the church recently, I took one Sunday morning to discuss the role of church members and gave them this book. Several of our members have indicated that they have enjoyed working through the book and have been challenged greatly.

Rainer’s introduction is entitled, “A Tale of Two Church Members,” and focuses on two very different perspectives on church membership. He wrote:

I am suggesting that congregations across America are weak because many of us church members have lost the biblical understanding of what it means to be a part of the body of Christ. We join our churches expecting others to serve us, to feed us, and to care for us. We don’t like the hypocrites in the church, but we fail to see our own hypocrisies. God did not give us local churches to become country clubs where membership means we have privileges and perks. He placed us in churches to serve, to care for others, to pray for leaders, to learn, to teach, to give, and, in some cases, to die for the sake of the gospel.

The book is divided into six chapters with each title declaring something about the type of church member we should be.

Chapter 1: “I Will Be a Functioning Church Member”

This chapter focuses on the responsibility of church members to be active in using their spiritual gifts to build up the body of Christ. Rainer wrote:

With a country club membership you pay others to do the work for you. With church membership, everyone has a role or function. That is why some are hands, feet, ears, or eyes. We are all different, but we are necessary parts of the whole.

Every member is vital to the body of Christ and when all members are not using their gifts in the body the church suffers! Rainer offered a very helpful question that church members can ask themselves, “How can I best serve my church?”

Chapter 2: “I Will Be a Unifying Church Member”

Rainer opens up with a powerful statement that I believe many people forget: “The world will know if we are Christians or not by the way we who are believers act toward one another.” Many of us have been involved in churches where there was little to no unity but that should not be the case. Rainer indicated that one of the most damaging things to church unity is gossip within the church. Church members have a responsibility to fight for (no pun intended) church unity at all times.

Chapter 3: “I Will Not Let My Church Be about My Preferences and Desires”

This chapter is probably the most important in my estimation. We live in a church culture that is predominately “me” focused. The problem according to Rainer is that church members should relinquish their wants and preferences as soon as they join their local church. He wrote:

But the strange thing about church membership is that you actually give up your preferences when you join. Don’t get me wrong; there may be much about your church that you like a lot. But you are there to meet the needs of others. You are there to serve others. You are there to give. You are there to sacrifice.

Serving others is what Jesus did and what he calls us to do within the church.

Chapter 4: “I Will Pray for My Church Leaders”

Rainer’s challenge to church members in this chapter was encouraging to my soul. He emphasized the need for church members to pray for their leaders, specifically pastors. His reasoning is very clear:

We should not be surprised, then, when we hear about a pastor’s moral failure. We are grieved and heartbroken, but not surprised. The devil is setting traps for pastors – anything he can do to bring harm to the pastor’s reputation. He will stop at nothing – greed, adultery, anger, addiction – to catch the pastor in his trap.

He emphasizes that God works through the prayers of believers – pastors need all the prayers they can get. My hope is that more church members will diligently pray for their pastors and leaders!

Chapter 5: “I Will Lead My Family to Be Healthy Church Members”

This chapter focuses on the necessity for families to pray for the church, worship together in the church, and develop a love for the church. Rainer offered this helpful thought:

As I grow more deeply in love with my church, I will do all I can in God’s power to bring my family with me. We will pray for our church leaders together. We will worship together. And we will serve together.

We desperately need more families who love the church and who worship, serve, and pray for the church!

Chapter 6: “I Will Treasure Church Membership as a Gift”

The book ends with a chapter that focuses on the need to see church membership as a precious gift. Rainer wrote:

Church membership is a gift. A gift must be treasured. It should not be taken for granted or considered lightly. Because it is a gift, we must always be thankful for it. And when we are thankful for something, we have less time and energy to be negative.

We need more church members who are grateful for the gift of the local church and membership within the body!

**If you are a church member you need to pick up this book and read it! If you are a pastor you need to read it and get it in the hands of your people!