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.