Bryan Chapell was until recently Chancellor of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, the denominational seminary of the Presbyterian Church in America. he recently resigned that post to become Senior Pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois. His academic expertise is in Practical Theology.
This book is well defined by its sub-title - 'Redeeming the Expository Sermon.' It is more than a book, a library of books. Anyone interested in preaching will value the bibliography alone, for it will guide the attentive reader to a multitude of valuable books on the subject of preaching.
Chapell does not ignore the cultural context of today in which the Christian Gospel has to be presented but believes strongly in an inherent power in the Word of God to change lives. I have this book on my Kindle and have made many notes of passages to be revisited and reconsidered. His writing style is fluent and his concepts are not couched in dense academic verbiage which need a translator. As such, this book will be of great value to the layman interested in preaching and, if involved or wanting to be involved, will provide a comprehensive guide to all aspects of the subject. There is much here also for the seminary-trained person. The book challenges the reader on various levels and should cause ministers to think deeply about their work and methods..It is very thorough and, though it has an American tone, it resonates with a much wider reading public.. I rate it very highly and give it 5 stars.
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I have come to appreciate the biblical, grace centred ministry of Byran Chapell- This work is a must have for all those serious about preaching into peoples lifes, serious about turning the world upside down for Christ and saving souls. Some say its much of the same reformed stuff of old, maybe but its still excellent stuff, buy it and see for yourself I will be surprised if you are disappointed.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
one of the twenty most valuable Christian books that I have ever read21 Feb 2006
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If I must have one book on preaching on my bookshelf, this is it. It is a tour de force that offers much more than its title suggests. While the book's focus is helping pastors deliver better sermons, it also functions as an superb book on hermeneutics. A significant portion of the book is devoted to helping pastors understand and interpret Bible passages . . . and the bridge to non-pastors understanding/interpreting Scripture is short. In particular, this book takes the insights of biblical theology and applies them in practical terms to understanding Bible texts. The book makes the most compelling case I have ever read for "redemptive hermeneutics," or making sure that we interpret Bible passages in their overall redemptive context. This is why the book is also useful to non-pastors: it helps you read Bible passages with a whole-Bible mentality (which is of necessity a redemptive and salvific mentality). When our church's School of Theology taught a class on basic Bible heremeneutics for non-pastors, we used three chapters from this book. Thankfully, Chappell is deeply concerned about the necessity of practical application . . . both as an author when writing this book and as he instructs preachers. The prose is easy to understand and non-technical. It provides many practical suggestions.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Biblical Grace-Filled Preaching but Kindle Edition Needs Improvement4 Feb 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
Chapell's Christ-Centered Preaching is a detailed "how to" treatment for expository preaching that centers around his concept of the "Fallen Condition Focus" and how to preach grace-filled redemptive sermons that revolve around this Fallen Condition Focus. Though at times extremely detailed to a fault, I found it to be a helpful book that would be beneficial to both novice and experienced preachers. Its detailed nature lends itself to being a valuable reference work as I seek to implement some of its concepts.
Just as many homileticians espouse the idea of a unifying theme, or single sermon idea of any message, Chapell proposes the "Fallen Condition Focus" as that which a sermon revolves around. He grounds this firmly in the preaching text when he defines the FCF as "the mutual human condition that contemporary believers share with those to or about whom the text was written that requires the grace of the passage for God's people to glorify and enjoy him" (loc 835). It is not immediately apparent in the early part of this book how important the FCF to Chapell's entire line of thinking, but it is essential and crucial. There is much in his definition that he later expounds upon throughout the book.
The phrasing "mutual human condition" is an excellent one as it immediately draws to consider what is relevant to the congregation. Chapell asserts that this condition is not always a sin or something we are guilty of, but it is something undesirable or negative that needs the encouragement of scripture. In this manner, the sermon is positive and uplifting while addressing a real human need. Chapell insists that this "mutual human condition" must also be found in the scripture passage to be preached, perhaps not in the original historical context but certainly true to the original intent of the text. By expounding the transformative intent of scripture, the sermon is thus expository in the truest sense. At first reading, I found Chapell's definition of the FCF helpful and by the end of the book grew in appreciation of how it can help to sharpen my preaching. I always strive to make application highly relevant, but the FCF goes a step further to stating that the core sermon idea must be intrinsically related to the scripture and relevant to the congregation in a single swoop. This is more integral than merely making relevant application points from an exposition of the text.
The latter part of the FCF definition explains that the mutual fallen condition needs the "grace of the passage for God's people to glorify and enjoy him." The last three chapters of Christ-Centered Preaching delves into this part of the definition and focuses on grace and redemption. It is in this part of the book that the book's title deserves its Christocentric name, for Chapell constantly brings the sermon back to its redemptive purposes. While this is not difficult to envisage for sermons based on gospel or epistle texts, Chapell describes how this applies to Old Testament passages. He is adamant that being Christ-centered means more than a simple geographic references to Jesus' life, allegorical interpretations, or allusions to the cross, but that the unifying theme of the message (the FCF) is drawn from the transforming principles of the passage which must be related to the redemptive work of Christ. This portion of the book deserves further reflection as it is excellent guidance to help a preacher craft sermons that are true to the intent of the text, highly relevant, transformative for the community, and thoroughly Christocentric.
Throughout the book, but especially in this last third that deals with redemptive preaching, Chapell talks about grace filled preaching. I found this particularly helpful in my understanding and acceptance of grace based preaching. This is especially in light of the growing popularity of prosperity theology to which I do not subscribe. Preaching that is based on grace ministers and encourages people greatly. One cannot disagree with the numbers of believers who flock to such preachers. Much of what is passed as grace based preaching focuses only on the "easy to the ears" parts of the gospel message and does not compel the listener to obedience and sacrifice. A well-known preacher in my country with a large following related that Jesus told him in a vision to preach grace and not the law. His understanding of grace filled preaching is one that is devoid of the law. Chapell proposes otherwise, for his understanding of grace filled preaching is one that includes obedience and the deadly consequences of sin. "Believers are exhorted to serve God in response to his sure mercy rather than in payment for his conditional favor" (loc 6957). Therein rests Chapell's distinction between grace and law. The law is not for punitive preaching but for driving us toward grateful obedience as a response to God's grace.
Chapell's definition of grace-filled preaching is one that I agree with and find helpful in execution of my preaching ministry. Many Christians have experienced the negative consequences of preaching based on guilt and manipulation. More often than not, it was not the intent of the preacher to instil these responses, but we can neither deny nor ignore that this is what many have felt. The recoil and flocking of people to prosperity preachers and proponents of "all grace no law" teaching demonstrate the reality of these powerful emotions in believers. Chapell defines a different route where one rejects punitive preaching of the law, but embraces preaching of sin's consequences as God's loving warning and encouragement to turn to grace inspired obedience. His personal story of how he realized that he was unwittingly preaching punitively to his congregation is a powerful story of a turn towards true grace filled preaching (loc 7160). After reading Chapell's testimony, I must admit that I have been guilty of not emphasizing enough grace in my own sermons. Christ-Centered Preaching provides detailed guidance on how to move towards preaching biblical grace in an uplifting and encouraging manner while not neglecting obedience, sacrifice, and the wages of sin.
I must note that the Kindle edition is badly formatted. The key problem is that headers within the text are not clearly shown. They are the same font as the main text and are not spaced from the text. This is an unfortunate error by the publisher as it makes navigating the text a chore. You do not notice this much in the free sample but towards to the main body of the book Chapell uses a lot more headers and the lack of formatting becomes more irritating. There are also typos where page numbers and chapter names get inserted into the main text. The publisher should fix this as soon as possible and Amazon release updates to those of us who bought the Kindle edition.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Exposition of the Word Preaching12 May 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
The aim of this book is to release the preachers of the burden of new science of interpretation and to teach them to preach the grace of all Scripture that `secures and enables relationship with the Savior thus making preaching a joy to the hearts of the preachers and strength to the God's people.' Chapel provides a comprehensive guide to the theory and practice of expository preaching. He teaches the basics of sermon preparation, organization, and delivery, and aids his teaching with charts and tables, figures and exercises. Through his elaborate teaching tools, Chapell illustrates how expository preaching enables the revelation of the destiny of human soul in Christ's redemptive work.
Centralized on the concept of Fallen Condition Focus, Chapell organized his massive work in small sections with self-explanatory subheadings. Divided into three main parts - Principles of Expository Preaching, Preparation of Expository Sermon and A Theology of Christ-Centered Messages - the book takes the reader on a meticulous journey into expository preaching. With periodic figures and tables indicating the explanatory finesse of the author, the book also has an informative section of Appendixes.
The content of the book is invaluable to the students of homiletics. In the sense that there is evidently a healthy balance between what Chapell explains in terms of the Fallen Condition of human beings, and how he seeks to illustrate the sermon on the redemptive work on the Cross, and finally what Chapell suggests as application in the revealing of this message of the Cross. Every chapter begins with an overview of what the reader can expect in the pages that follow. Subheadings along with the goal of that chapter are mentioned for the sake of preparing the reader ahead.
With an engaging style, an elaborately treated subject , well-documented and explained as if for laity, Chapell drives home a neglected point in preaching - that the whole purpose of the preacher at the pulpit is to reveal the fallen condition of man and to find encouragement in the redemptive work of Christ. Attention of the reader is drawn to short sentences that Chapell uses every now and then whose idea runs deep. For example, consider this sentence, "You must know grace to preach it," (pg. 39), or elsewhere, "A grammar lesson is not a sermon." (pg. 55), or even, "excellent delivery disappears from the awareness of listeners." (pg. 331).
It is challenging to prepare every sermon with a focus on Christ and his redemptive work especially when the text under consideration makes no mention of Christ. But Chapell gives an excellent answer to this quandary. Chapell poses the question, `how can we make all Scripture center on Christ's work when vast portions make no mention of him?' and answers it, too, in his precise style, "the answer lies in learning to see all of God's work as a unified need of human need and divine provision."
Chapell instructs not only on the `how-tos' of Christ-centered preaching but provides examples of sermons with both good and bad introductions. By doing this, Chapell is in a position to explain a weak sermon in contrast to a strong and impactful sermon. Pursuant in presenting his explanation and application of the two centralized themes of his monograph, authority and redemption, he notes with precise brevity, "no application, no sermon." Chapel gives the preacher a flexibility to choose his own style. He notes that there is not any one style to present the sermon. This, in a way, bestows authority to the preacher to speak the word that God has given him. Chapell, nevertheless, provides steps and procedures for sermon preparation but gives liberty to the preacher to present the sermon in his own style.
The use of the word "mutual human condition" brings commonality among the congregation. There is an immediate connect that is established which brings the congregation as a whole closer to God. Preachers are to find a scriptural base of this condition in the scripture and expound the same to the congregation, he suggests. That sermon then becomes an expository sermon. The mutual human condition, however, Chapell explains, is not a sin in itself but is a hurdle in the path of spirituality which can find redemption only in the application of God's Word to one's life in particular and the life of church in general.
Although Chapell justified that it was possible to prepare every single sermon going out from the pulpits of the world churches to be centered on Christ's redemption, this seems a little far-fetched. That being said, this reader finds Chapell's book an excellent resource for those struggling with sermon preparation from the basis of Christ's redemptive work, of whom this reader is also one. For a sermon to begin and end at the Cross, and have only the work on Cross as its substance is rather challenging without the instruction and application of Chapell's book. This is what makes this book the most valuable resource that preachers and homiletic teachers must have in their collection.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
"How To's" of Biblical Exposition2 Nov 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
This book is "one stop shopping" for all things biblical preaching. I enjoyed this book and will be referring to it often. It offers a clear, tried-and-true methodology for crafting expositions of the sacred text of scripture. Expositional preaching presents the Word, explains what it says, and exhorts based on what it means.
This book is really two books in one - one, homiletical; and the other, theological. One should not expect this book to be a full treatment of either. However, extensive footnotes allow the reader to explore other texts for more explanation.
From a homiletical point of view (with some exegetical recommendations), the books removes much of the mystery out of the process of developing a sermon. Chapell develops the layout of a typical sermon:
The Introduction > [leads to] The Fallen Condition Focus > Sermon Proposition > Main Points > Applicable Subpoints (with associated illustrations & applications) > [all building to the] Conclusion
In Chapell's own words, "The body of the sermon indicates how the scriptural balm should be applied to our lives and what regimens God requires for our spiritual health. Main points formulated to reflect and support the principles of the proposition provide the information that acts as biblical leverage for the preacher's exhortations. Explanation and illustration unfold and demonstrate meanings that supply the reasoning and reality that make the sermon's applications authoritative, accessible, and possible. The conclusion drives the matter home, marshaling the forces of heart and mind for a final exhortation that calls listeners to respond to their fallen condition with the biblical guidance that the sermon has disclosed."
From a theological point of view, it reminds us of the authority of scripture and Christ as its focus. A redemptive sermon, Chapell argues, is a grace-oriented message that "...will lead people to understand that Christ's work rather than their own supplies the only basis for God's acceptance and that Christ's strength rather than their own provides the only hope of Christian obedience."
The appendices in this book are also noteworthy: - philosophy of dress and style - divisions and proportions of sermons; including a "sermon preparation pyramid" - example wedding, funeral, and evangelistic messages - recommended study resources - how to read scripture publically in front of the congregation - sample sermon evaluation forms - and a sample sermon with flags pointing out the concepts taught throughout the book.
Whether you are a preacher or teacher of God's word, you will find this book to be a helpful addition to your library.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Book That Should Be On Every Preacher's Shelf10 Feb 2014
- Published on Amazon.com
Bryan Chapell, who is the president and professor of practical theology at Covenant Theological Seminary, has endeavored to provide a book to redeem the expository sermon (19). Based on a high view of Scripture, Chapell wants to offer practical instructions that bind the expository sermon to Scripture’s truths while effectively communicating the gospel (19). It is a tall task for his book titled, Christ-Centered Preaching, but Chapell nevertheless provides a sound argument in his three-part book.
Chapell begins his book by providing the reader with the basic understanding of the importance of the Word in preaching. Also in this first part of the book, he works to define his terms (i.e. expository preaching, FCF, ect.), and establish components of exposition as well. The Fallen Condition Focus (FCF) is an important aspect for the reader, for the author continually refers to it in subsequent chapters. Chapell defines it as, “the mutual human condition that contemporary believers share with those to or about whom the text was written that requires the grace of the passage for God’s people to glorify and enjoy him (50).” The author concludes that the preacher must know the FCF in order to really know what the passage is about, even if facts of the passage are known (51). These facets make-up the first part of his book titled, “Principles for Expository Preaching.”
Part two, which is titled, “Preparation of Expository sermons” delineate the process of putting a sermon together. These chapters could be characterized as the “nuts and bolts” chapters. The author answers many of the ‘how?’ and ‘why?’ questions concerning the process of how to put an expository sermon together. Chapell begins by walking the preacher through the six questions he should pose in preparing a message on a passage (104). Next, Chapell writes about the different types of outlining and structuring of sermons. Additionally, there are chapters on the different components of the sermon like, illustration and application. He provides helpful dos and don’ts for each part of the sermon. Finally, Chapell ends this section teaching his readers how to give a proper introduction and conclusion to a sermon. In this section, the author argues the preacher should explain in the introduction why hearers need to listen, which then indicates the need of the FCF in the intro (241).
The third part of Chapell’s book focuses on the theology of a Christ-centered message. In this short section, the author makes an argument for a redemptive approach to preaching. Based upon the FCF, this principle allows the preacher to direct every sermon to the redemption elements of Scripture because all Scripture can apply to our fallenness (273). Wrapping up the main body of the book, the author walks the reader through the development of a redemptive sermon by showing the dos and don’ts of this approach. Chapell ends the book with twelve helpful appendixes which cover topics such as, the philosophy of delivery and dress, a philosophy of style, methods of presentation and preparation, special occasion messages and a sample sermon of his.
In a positive light, the title and drive of his book (i.e. expository sermons should be “Christ-centered”) is supported biblically by Jesus’ words in Lk. 24:27. Chapell’s thesis is also supported within the wider biblical meta-narrative. Beginning with the protoevangelium of Gen. 3:15, the Old Testament seems to have messianic threads throughout the Scriptures, which points to God’s salvific plan in history.
There are several other components of Christ-Centered Preaching that the author provides biblical support for. For example, Chapell finds biblical support for his famous FCF in 2 Tim. 3:16-17 (52). Additionally, in the section regarding application, the author provides 1 Cor. 10:6-13 and Rom. 4:23-25 to persuade the reader that his method is derived from the Scriptures (214, 271). With regards to the importance of application, Chapell says, “[t]he sermon itself is a ‘redemptive event,’ a present tool of the Spirit to transform listeners’ minds, hears, and wills (139).” This idea not only supports the importance of application, but seems to mimic the New Testament author’s perspective of living the Christian life. In other words, Chapell mirrors the notion the apostles had in the 1st century and that 21st century preachers should have, which is, we are living out the metanarrative of God’s redemptive plan. This, added to the broad biblical support for Chapell’s ideas, indicates that he is simply following the biblical authors in his desire to feed God’s sheep.
Secondly, his definition of expository preaching is desirable compared to others that have been presented in the past. Chapell gives a technical definition by saying an expository sermon, “requires that it expound Scripture by deriving from a specific text main points and subpoints that disclose the thought of the author, cover the scope of the passage, and are applied to the lives of the listeners (129).” The author does not limit expository preaching to a specific hermeneutical type, but simply states the expounding of the Scripture must be in accord with authorial intent, which would include typological interpretation. Chapell develops a concept from his definition by saying, “As expository preachers, our ultimate goal is not to communicate the value of our opinions, others’ philosophies, or speculative meditations but rather to show how God’s Word discloses his will for those united to him through his Son (31).” This noble aspiration of Chapell does not presuppose a hermeneutical method before the text is even considered nor does it limit, hermeneutically, who fits into the camp of expositors.
Along similar lines, Chapell presents many of his ideas in a non-dogmatic fashion. Several times the author reminds the reader that much of what he is teaching can be done differently. For example, concerning how one should divide the components of his sermon, the author writes, “Differences among congregations…require pastors to vary the proportions of the expositional components (91).” Also, when it comes to outlining, Chapell is simply suggesting methods and wants preachers and students to consider the composition of a sermon as a symphony that “cannot be confined to one form (161).” With so much dogmatism with regards to method and structure, it is refreshing to read that Chapell designates his views as “tools of the trade (161)."
A part of the author’s theology behind his preaching leads him to warn against “the deadly be’s.” This is a unique aspect of the book, which he warns by saying, “[t]hey exhort believers to strive to ‘be’ something in order to be loved by God (289). This concept should be seriously considered before a sermon is preached. The consequences of such sermons is laid out by Chapell (294), but the thought that gets to the heart of what he is saying is found when he writes, “[h]owever well intended, these sermons present a faith indistinguishable from that of morally conscientious Muslims, Unitarians, Buddhists, or Hindus. The distinction of the Christian faith is that God provides the way to himself because we cannot make our way to him (294).” The distinguishing aspect of the Christian minister is Christ-centered preaching.
Lastly, the content of the appendixes was an excellent touch at the end. These snippets of insight are great reference points for beginning preachers and can serve to help form the opinion of those looking to pursue preaching as a vocation. Graphs, illustrations and tables add significantly to the presentation of the book and provide visual aids to the content the author is trying to communicate.
There are a couple of critiques that could be offered of the book. Organizationally, it seems that part three, “A Theology of Christ-Centered Message” would better serve the reader if it was part one of the book and subsequently the “Principles for Expository Preaching.” Many ideas he presents in the first part of the book connected more after I read part three of the book. For example, the FCF is presented mainly in part one of the book, but is fleshed-out pragmatically in part three (272). The author merely describes the FCF in part one, which leaves the reader questioning if they should accept this theory before seeing how it is worked out in practice. It is not until part three that the author shows biblically an example of a NT writer using the FCF concept (271). Furthermore, it seems more appropriate theology should always ground methodology. With the way Chapell presents his material, the reader may think that preaching methodology comes before theology.
One aspect of the book which troubled me was the pejorative way the author used the concept of an “academic” sermon (178). He writes, “yet many preachers consider the stories they tell to be a necessary evil that undermines the seriousness, scholarship and spiritual integrity of their messages. Such equivocation cannot be tolerated where souls are at stake (178).” This idea is tied to Chapell’s continual notion that sermons should be heavy on application and emphasis the FCF (48-49).
Chapell’s animosity towards sermons that emphasize teaching is seen clearly when he commits a non sequitur. He presents information from surveys saying “born-again” Christians have high rates of divorce, pornography addition and other moral failures. From there he makes the leap to say it has something to do with a lack of application in preaching (209-210). It simply does not follow that this is the case. Even if it was the reality, how are we to determine that Christian pornography addiction is due to lack of application? Could it not simply be said that the reason for the addiction is due to a lack of deep doctrinal understanding of idolatry or any other laxity of doctrine? Chapell’s motivation for providing application in sermons is a good one, but it would be most helpful to demonstrate this using biblical example rather than using “academic” in a pejorative way or worse falling prey to logical fallacies.
Even with those few criticisms, it must be said that the book should be on every preacher’s shelf. They should have a copy for themselves and also have copies available to give away to men in the congregation who feel called to ministry. It works as a good companion to similar works by Robinson and Stott. Chapell has aided ministers of the Gospel in significant ways by providing a helpful introduction to expository preaching.