God Wants Preachers’ Hearts More Than Their Eloquence
In The Preacher’s Catechism, Lewis Allen shows what it means to have a heart captivated by God and the gospel
Preaching is the most important public ministry of pastors. Many books describe how preachers can improve their craft. The Preacher’s Catechism is not one of them. Instead, it focuses on how preachers can improve their character.
Lewis Allen offers this reminder of the greater importance of character to craft in his Introduction:
And yet, having all of these tools [to improve preaching skills] will not ensure that you are a preacher after God’s own heart, someone who is really serving those who listen to you. Skills have an essential place, but more essential to our calling are a heart and mind captivated by God and his gospel.
In other words, the heart of preachers is the heart of preaching.
Allen bases his counsel in The Preacher’s Catechism on three convictions:
- The church needs preachers who last and thrive.
- Preachers must understand how preaching works, and how their own souls work.
- The Westminster Shorter Catechism is an outstanding resource for the heart needs of every preacher.
The book organizes its material around 43 questions modeled on that catechism.
The first and second convictions should be uncontroversial points among evangelical Christians. I found the third conviction a bit of a stretch, at first glance anyway. I am Pentecostal — Arminian and egalitarian to boot — so what could I learn from a catechism produced by high Calvinist English Presbyterians? (Allen himself is a Calvinist Baptist.)
A lot, it turns out. Allen’s use of the catechism sheds light on heart issues that all Christian ministers need to address.
Lewis Allen’s use of the catechism sheds light on heart issues that all Christian ministers need to address.
For example, consider his repurposing of the catechism’s teaching on the Ten Commandments. The catechism asks, “What does the _____ commandment teach us?” (with first, second, third, etc. filling in the blank). Here are Allen’s answers, which follow the order of the commandments (Exodus 20:2-17):
- You shall preach as a love expression to the Lord your God.
- You shall not make a preaching idol of your image or of anyone else’s.
- You shall honor the name of God as you preach.
- You shall rest from finding your justification in your preaching, and rest content and safe in the finished work of the living Word of God, Jesus Christ.
- You shall honor those who preached the Word of God to you, and obey what they taught you.
- You shall not use your ministry to harm in any way.
- You shall not be unfaithful to your ministry by failing to love those you preach to.
- You shall not withhold your heart and soul from the hard work of preaching.
- You shall not say anything untrue in your preaching.
- You shall not set your heart on another’s ministry and gifts.
There is far more to The Preacher’s Catechism than these reworked commandments, which appear in Part 3, titled “Loving the Word,” of a four-part book. Part 1 is titled “The Glory of God and the Greatness of Preaching,” Part 2 “Jesus for Preachers,” and Part 3 “Preaching with Conviction.”
In fact, there is more to this book on preaching than preaching. Part 4 includes helpful chapters on baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Preaching may be a pastor’s most important public duty, but it is not the only one. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are New Testament ordinances, God-given means of grace that too many evangelical pastors — including Pentecostals — neglect.
Allen closes the book with this statement: “Our preaching will never satisfy us. It isn’t meant to. Let’s give our hearts to God.” In many ways, that’s the core message of this excellent little book.
Some books make for a good read, once. The Preacher’s Catechism is a volume I think I’ll take up and read again. And then again.
Lewis Allen, The Preacher’s Catechism (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018).