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Mar

21

2011

Reverberation

Having recently read The Church and the Surprising Offense of God's Love, I was excited to pick up Reverberation by Jonathan Leeman and see what he had to say about how the word of God works in the life of the church, and what this means for how pastoral ministry is to be done. As I mentioned in a recent post, his thesis is, "God's Word, working through God's Spirit, is God's primary instrument for growing God's church" (Reverberation, 19).

I came to the book with two desires. For one, I wanted to see how he would map out the trajectory of God's word in the life of the church. I want to make sure that my expectations are set on the right things and have the right priorities in the church. Secondly, I wanted to learn more how the word works so that my confidence in it may be deepened. All in all, mission accomplished.

This is a much-needed book, as it addresses a much-needed issue that is perhaps often taken for granted.  Nobody would ever say that the Bible is not necessary; yet at the same time, few really believe and live as though the Bible (through the Spirit) is the one great necessary thing in ministry. It is one thing to believe it is true and has power; it is quite another to stake your entire ministry upon it alone.

That is what Leeman calls us to do, and he does a fine job. I think his previous work on the church was better argued and better written, but this was still an excellent book. It was more basic than I had hoped for in some places. I wish he had elaborated on some points more. I wish he had spent more time developing the idea of "reverberation" of how it "bounces back". In the end, this concept was more of unifying glue than an argument of the book. 

He begins noting that the church/life begins with the evangelist calling people to respond. He then argues that God's word (with the Spirit) has power to act. It is the word which frees; everything else is either a platform for the word to speak, or an evidence of its power. It is the word which ought to have primacy in the church gathering--since it is the word which gathered us together.

He moves from here to the preaching event. He argues for expository preaching, which should both announce as well as confront (his term for "application"). He moves from here into the life of church: singing, praying, discipleship, and evangelism.

Even if there were parts I would have cared for more detail, I benefited so much from the book as providing a "theology of preaching" (as Carl Trueman calls this book), a grand-scale vision of the word of God being central in the life of the church. It is so tempting to be distracted from this and focus on personality, charisma, giftedness, or anything else rather than to solely rely on God's word to unite and grow God's people.

If there was one question I am left with at the end of the book that I wish he would have answered, it would be this: "Why, then, is some expository preaching dead?" If God's word is where God's power is, and we are to therefore announce it clearly and plainly--why is this kind of preaching sometimes dead? 

I trust the answer is: It is God's word together with God's Spirit. My question, then, is How do we speak God's word, such that the Spirit of God attends and blesses our speaking?  There is no mechanical / technique answer to this question. I am seeking to underestand the link between the Word and the Spirit, which I was hoping this book would provide, rather than simply an affirmation of the link.

That said, I think he might hint at his answer on page 110:

That's the main question of this chapter: How do we most faithfully proclaim God's Word, such that His Spirit will work mightily?
...
God speaks through us whenever we plainly and modestly relate whatever He has already said in the Bible.

He then goes on to argue for expository preaching as the most plain and modest, simple and direct way of relating God's words. "The preacher's words are God's words to the extent they are faithful to the content and purpose of God's words." (p. 115)  Perhaps he is saying that the Spirit will surely be powerfully working through all preaching which is plain and modest, simple and direct. This would put him pretty close to saying what Jim Shaddix said in The Passion Driven Sermon.

That was a bit of a digression. All in all, great book. Pick up and read and be challenged to speak God's word inside and outside the church with complete confidence that this is exactly what God will use for the accomplishing of his purposes and the glory of his Name!

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Matt Hauck (郝柏昇)

A once enemy now son, forgiven and freed by Jesus' blood, adopted and called by grace for glory.   (more...)

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