Preaching with Passion by Alex Montoya

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This little book on preaching is a mixed bag. On the one hand the author is a solid man of God who loves to preach, and to preach with passion. He takes the art of preaching seriously, offering many practical helps and guidelines to enhance the preaching of his readers. Without question, in my opinion, his chapter on preaching with compassion is the high water mark of the book. The best preachers are not just wordsmiths; they are men who speak for God from broken hearts. They preach to the sinner, the wounded, the dying, the lost and the hurting. And the minute they forget this fact a great measure of power is lost from their sermons. I have personally known some wonderful preachers that had no real heart and concern for their people – they just loved to preach. Mercifully such men usually don’t last long in the ministry. Montoya’s chapter on this subject could be (perhaps should be) read on a regular basis by pastors – just to remind them of the great needs among our people so that we preach with true compassion.

On the downside Montoya makes a number of biblically unsubstantiated claims and statements that throw a bit of cold water on my enthusiasm for this book. For example, he so emphasizes preaching with passion that it places the expositor preacher in a real dilemma. He encourages them to preach only that which stirs their hearts. To preach almost exclusively the great theological themes that invite passion. And yet while he claims to believe in expository preaching (p. 151), he admits that the expositor preacher is at a great disadvantage here (pp. 46ff). The topical preacher can chose his themes according to the need of the moment or that which is currently stirring the heart of the preacher. But the expository preacher systematically preaches through a passage of Scripture – which sometimes is not foremost on his mind. Does that mean we should skip these themes in order to be passionate? Do not our people need to be taught hundreds of subjects that are not the heartthrob of the preacher? If we followed this idea who would ever preach on Melchizedek, or the New Covenant, or church discipline or other things that may not ignite a fire in the souls of either the preacher or the listener but are nevertheless the Word of God and must be taught? Along this same line Montoya, in an effort to encourage the preacher to know his text well, uses George Whitefield as an example. It was said of Whitefield that you could always tell when he had a new sermon, for it lacked authoritative power in its delivery. But let Whitefield master the sermon, and he soon moved the audience under his preaching (p. 84). How discouraging to the average pastor who does not have the luxury of repeating a sermon a hundred times and must come to the pulpit with a fresh sermon two or three times per week. If we must become topical, repetitious preachers to be excellent, those of us who believe strongly in expository preaching are in deep water.

A few other statements were troubling as well. For example, the concept that individuals will go to hell if we lack urgency in our preaching (p. 97). Montoya surely does not really believe this. Then concerning the authority of our preaching he writes, “Nothing can equal the words, ‘I know it is true it happened to me!'” (p. 76). This is pure liberal subjectivism, and once again I cannot believe Montoya believes what he wrote. Without question he believes that something is true because God says it is true not because of our experience. He or his editors should have caught these misstatements.

Of more concern is his view of the mystical calling of the pastor to his office (pp. 30-33,79). This view is so prevalent in Christian circles to be almost beyond challenge – yet as usual Montoya can muster no Scripture in context to support this theory. Surprisingly (happily so) the author immediately turns his attention on the mythological “unction” that the preacher is supposed to have from God when he preaches (pp. 33-35). He debunks this idea as not having biblical support. Excellent! Had he used the same rational in his discussion of “the calling” he would have come to the same conclusion.

The good certainly out weighs the questionable in Preaching with Passion and would be a valuable read for most preachers. However, except for chapter three on compassion, there are better books on preaching.

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