Byron Yawn, pastor of Community Bible Church in Nashville, TN, wrote this little volume to deal with a common struggle for all pastors—delivery (p. 13). Believing that the root problem for most preachers lies in the areas of clarity, simplicity and passion or a combination of all three, Yawn sets out not only to discuss these three obstacles to great preaching, but to provide examples of those who have overcome them and who excel in delivery. Yet Yawn rightly warns that his readers should not attempt to become clones of great preachers. We can learn much from them, but we must find our own voice, that is be ourselves (pp. 28, 37-39).
The author selects John MacArthur as his example of clarity. Here is a man who studies at the level of a scholar and communicates at the level of a friend (p. 56). For simplicity Yawn chooses R. C. Sproul as one of our finest examples of a functional theologian, a man who teaches deep truths in an understandable way (pp. 78ff). For passion the author turns to John Piper (pp. 103ff). What each of these men has in common is that they sincerely believe what they preach and they want their audience to believe it as well (p. 42).
As Yawn discusses the three main problems facing preachers, he skillfully interweaves valuable related subjects into the mix: He speaks of the trap of trying to be relevant, in which we can become more like life coaches than heralds of divine truth (pp. 32-34), he claims that preaching is saying one thing and supporting it from the text, which is more difficult than most people imagine (p. 49). Yawn suggests that preachers attack the text with three diagnostic questions: What does the text say? What does the text mean? And what is the author’s intended effect on his audience (p. 64)? It should also be the preacher’s desire to blow people’s minds with the grandeur of the Word of God and of God Himself (pp. 68-72). Yawn warns of the danger of lack of doctrinal preaching and how the “seeker” movement has packaged truth in such a way that narcissistic Americans will accept it (pp. 72-76).
Well-Driven Nails is a most helpful book on preaching focused on the delivery. Anyone who reads and applies it will be sure to enrich his preaching ability. But the difficulty of preaching is made evident in one of the author’s attempts at exegesis. In his discussion of Jesus’ healing of the paralytic in Luke 5:17-26, he believes that most preachers miss the point of the story, which he claims is justification by faith alone (pp. 92-94). However Sola Fide has not been mentioned at any point in the story—Yawn has imported it into the text. The point of the story is to demonstrate the truth nature of Jesus Christ. It is important, as preachers of the Word, that we not force our assumptions on the text, but draw out what is actually there. That Yawn stumbles at this point is to show how easy it is for all of us to misstep. It is a hard task for fallible men to proclaim the Word of God. I believe this little book is a fine aid in that process.
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher, Southern View Chapel, Springfield, IL