Letters to My Students

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There have been many great preachers who have graced the pulpits of the world. One of the most well-known preachers is Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the eloquent Baptist pastor also known as the "Prince of Preachers." The author first experiences Spurgeon's ministry through a book given by a friend. That book was "Lectures to My Students" by Spurgeon. He was transformed and for much of his preaching life, Jason Allen learned from the thoughts and teachings of Spurgeon. In gratitude to Spurgeon and with desire to share his knowledge with others, Allen writes this volume of letters to students with regard to the topic of preaching. The three key aspects of preaching described in the letters are:
- Preparing to be a Preacher
- Preparing the Sermon 
- Preparing to Preach.

Section One comprises seven chapters about the condition of the preacher. He asserts the importance of calling and the conviction with regard to preaching the Word of God. Each preacher ought to develop their own theology of preaching using the five marks proposed by Allen. They need to cultivate their ability to preach through adequate preparation and maturity in the Word. If one needs to preach, then preach expository sermons. the author shares his own journey to expository preaching and confesses that such a meticulous road through the books of the Bible also helps forms his heart. Expository preaching is being able to observe, interpret, and apply the Word from its original contexts to our contemporary times. So important is this that Allen dedicates two chapters just to talk about this. Further on, there are eight tips to learn with regard to beginning preachers.

Section Two is about the process of preparing the sermon. In six chapters, we get a gist of what it means to familiar ourselves with the Bible passage; questions we need to ask; and to be familiar with our audience. Then comes the hard work of exegesis and interpreting the text. There is no substitute for diligently analyzing and exploring the texts. Then comes the sermon outline followed by a delivery plan. Amplify the key points. I like the way he summarize the process as: "Aim to inform the mind, impact the heart, and challenge the will." Preaching is different from mere speaking from the lectern. The former essentially is about connected what we say to Christ. This is fundamental hermeneutics for the Church. There is also instructions about how we use words, in particular, to choose words that impact rather than mere instruct. That said, intentionality is more important than eloquence. The latter may wow a moment but the former will help us go the distance.

Section Three is about sustaining our journey and growth as a preacher. For some of us, it might be the most interesting section as it deals with cultural concerns; engaging contemporary issues; preaching evangelistic sermons; and learning about checklists for preaching.

My Thoughts
Few people would have the patience and time to plow through Spurgeon's sixty-three volume collection of his pulpit ministry work and his 3563 sermons preached. Such primary research and study would usually be the work of seminarians or teaching pastors. Busy preachers might rely more on secondary research and resource materials. While this set of letters from Allen would fit in the secondary resource category, I must say that it is an excellent one. The author has brilliantly condensed the essence of Spurgeon's convictions and produce a work of art to help preachers both young and old to preach better. Right from the start, Allen states that preaching is a calling and preachers need to be convicted to preach. The way he writes these letters does exactly that. Allen himself is a preacher and he shares from the heart how it can be done.

I appreciate the concise manner in which Allen categorizes the various aspects of preaching. While there are three major sections of preaching, namely the preacher, the preparation and the perseverance to grow as a preacher, Allen inserts many snippets of wisdom and incorporates the preaching gems from other famous preachers such as Richard Baxter, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Haddon Robinson, John Stott, Bryan Chapell, HB Charles, and many more. This illustrates an important point: Good preachers learn from other good preachers.

All in all, I enjoy this collection of letters. They are easy to read and shows us that preachers must never stop learning. Even the most basic skill of reading the Bible is not to be underestimated. This book is an essential resource for any preacher or anyone preparing to be a preacher.

Jason Allen is president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He converses regularly with pastors and students regarding topics on preaching, pastoral ministry and leadership. This book is a collection of his learning through these years.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.

This book has been provided courtesy of B&H Publishing and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.
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This feels much more like a series of conversations than it does a traditional book. Of course, this was the author's intention, as evidenced by the title. This structure (or lack of it) prevents in-depth, detailed breakdowns of specific areas of preaching, but it also makes the book very easy to read. I took my time with this book and read it a chapter or two at a time. It contains quite a bit of content that I find helpful as a young preacher. Those seeking a how-to manual for the preparation or delivery process should look elsewhere, but if you are looking for accessible, practical advice from one preacher to another, this is a great resource.

I received a digital copy of this book for free from the publisher and was not required to write a positive review.
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Letters to My Students
Volume 1: On Preaching

by Jason K. Allen

B&H Publishing Group (B&H Books, Holman Bibles, B&H Español, and B&H Kids)

B&H Books


Pub Date 30 Jul 2019

I am reviewing a copy of Letters to My Students through B&H Books and Netgalley:

In the tradition of Charles Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students, Jason K Allen, also offers advice to his readers who have the call to preach, whether currently preaching, or studying to become a Pastor.

In this book we are reminded that not everyone is called to Pastoral Ministry, The author goes on to point out that if we do have that call, then a personal theology of preaching needs to be developed. The personal theology of preaching must be built on a high view of scripture.

The reader of this book is reminded too that preaching is both an art form, and a science. While preparing a sermon the reader is encouraged to overprepare! While preparing a sermon the reader is reminded too know the audience you are preaching too.

I give Letters to My Students five out of five stars!

Happy Reading!
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The health of the church rises or falls with the pulpit. It isn't wild or controversial to say that preaching is God's divinely ordained means for communicating his Word, nourishing his church, and for redeeming a people for himself. In Letters to My Students: On Preaching Jason K. Allen (president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and associate professor for preaching and pastoral ministry) writes out of his experience both as a preacher, and a teacher of aspiring preachers. With chapters like Eight Tips for Beginning Preachers, Preparing Your Sermon, and A Final Checklist Before You Preach Allen has provided a resource which is highly practical, helpfully specific, and undoubtedly better equips every preacher to rightly interpret and expositionally bring to bear God's Word upon the lives of God's people. Mission accomplished.
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