Top Christian Book Reviews
Preaching with Passion by Alex Montoya, John F. MacArthur Jr.
Published by Kregel Academic & Professional
October 16th 2007
Buy on Amazon
Passion is the power, the energy, the life in the delivery of a sermon. A "dull preacher" should be a contradiction in terms because the essence of preaching should be energetic thinking, spiritual power, and passionate delivery.
Pastor and seminary professor Alex Montoya takes you on a Journey through eight characteristics of passionate preaching, Showing how preaching should contain (1) spiritual power, (2) conviction, (3) compassion, (4) authority, (5) urgency, (6) brokenness, (7) your whole being, and (8) imagination.
What is the greatest danger for conservative, bible-based preachers who are committed to solid exposition every week? According to Dr. Alex Montoya, Pastor of First Fundamental Bible Church, the greatest danger is a lack of passion. With over thirty years of pastoral experience, as well as a background as a Homiletics professor at the Master’s Seminary, Montoya is well equipped to address this concern. “The problem,” says Montoya, “is not what we say; it is how we say it. Our sermons lack passion” (10).
Montoya believes that preaching with passion is something everyone can learn, even if one is not passionate by nature. He speaks from personal knowledge, as he is by nature shy and inhibited and during his early years possessed a high degree of stage fright (17). The reviewer can relate to this and it is encouraging to read that God has allowed Montoya to go beyond his weakness and develop a degree of passion in his preaching (17). In eight chapters, Montoya instructs preachers on how to preach with passion. In order to preach with passion, Montoya believes preachers must learn to preach with: Spiritual Power; Conviction; Compassion; Authority; Urgency; Brokenness; The Whole Body; and Imagination. A fitting description for Montoya’s aim in this book is that preachers would never be known as “boring” or “dull” (18).
In chapter one, Montoya takes on what he believes to be the secret of passionate preaching, namely, spiritual power. He provides six requirements for preaching with spiritual power: Contrition of Soul; Confession of Sin; Communion with the Savior; Commission by the Spirit; Control by the Spirit; and Consolation by the Saints. While each requirement provides helpful insight, Montoya’s consideration of control by the Spirit is distinct. Montoya pushes back against the notion of “unction” and “anointing preaching” that other well-known preachers such as Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Jerry Vines have written about. He contends that the idea of “unction” and “anointed preaching” are both nebulous and confusing, leaving preachers more miserable than when they first began (34). Montoya believes that if there is a special power and supernatural endowment available that must be sought for, yet in the end is never guaranteed, then a sore and unnecessary burden has been laid upon the preacher (34). His bold conclusion is that such a thing does not exist (35). Instead of “anointed preaching” or “unction,” Montoya provides an alternative, namely, the constant control of the Holy Spirit. The preacher can expect to be used by the Holy Spirit if he will yield to His control (Eph. 5:18), not grieve or quench Him (Eph. 4:30), nor resist Him (Acts 7:51). His conclusion is that an obedient preacher can experience God’s power if he will simply yield his life to the obedience of Christ and seek faithfully to carry out His charge (36)!
In chapter two, Montoya develops the necessity to preach with conviction. Most preachers know that this is necessary, so he gets right to the point with guidelines on how to preach with conviction. Most notable is his admonition to preach the main thesis of the text. By this, Montoya means that expositors must preach the subject and predicate of the paragraph and chapter (45). It is not necessary to “explain every jot and tittle, every grammatical and syntactical nuance, or every stylistic tangent in order to be truly called an expositor” (45). Identifying the main thesis and seeing its vitality, says Montoya, will help the expositor feel deeply about it and thus preach it with passion (45).
In chapter three, Montoya explains that passionate preaching must be characterized by compassion for people. It is here where he clarifies the goal of preaching, which is the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:12). True preaching must be people oriented (60) with the goal to “present every man perfect in Christ” (Col 1:28). Montoya goes on to provide practical ways to gain compassion. Of particular note, he exhorts preachers to “study their own heart” (65). When preachers do this, they can then form their sermons in such a way that they are really preaching to themselves – to their needs, their weaknesses and their desires (65-66).
In chapter four, Montoya looks to Jesus for the example of what it means to preach with authority. The gospels testify that the crowds were continually amazed at how Jesus taught as one with authority (Matt. 7:28-29; Luke 4:32). Like the scribes of Jesus’ day, preachers today look to current events, psychology, history and commentaries to verify their message (74). John Broadus concurs with Montoya, writing, “…if a man is not accustomed to come for himself to the Bible, and form his own judgment of its meaning, his teachings, whatever else they may possess, will have little of living power to sway men’s souls” (74-75). Montoya sums this thought up powerfully: “We need to preach the Word, not what people say about the Word. Authority lies in the Word of God, not in the teachings of men of renown” (75).
In chapter five, Montoya addresses the need to preach with urgency. Here he exhorts preachers to preach: with judgment in mind; toward a verdict; for the uniqueness of the moment; and under divine sovereignty. The reviewer was impacted by Montoya’s exhortation to preach toward a verdict. “It is to our shame,” writes Montoya, “that we preachers can go through the routine of preaching and never expect that our people will do anything with our sermons. We plan no response, so we have no response” (94). The problem is the tendency for preachers to make “exposition” the end in itself, rather than a means to an end (95). There is something to know, something to do, a way to act, and now is the time to do it (96)!
In Chapter six, Montoya urges preachers toward preaching with brokenness. The focus of this chapter is on the necessity for preachers to die to themselves. Man is by nature self-righteous, self-sufficient, and just plain selfish. God will break a man who is full of himself (106). In this chapter, Montoya takes aim at seminarians and young preachers, calling them “idealists” (110). Brokenness is the one thing that will “remove the rose-colored glasses” (110).
In chapter seven, Montoya focuses on preaching with the whole body. Preaching with the whole body entails delivery and non-verbal communication. He covers all the important areas, such as: the heart, eyes, voice, arms, and torso of the preacher. Of particular note here is Montoya’s emphasis on the importance of eye contact and facial expression with the audience. Montoya cites others who have emphasized this as well. It is here where Montoya discusses the different methods of sermon delivery: reading, recitation from memory, impromptu, and extemporaneous (122). It seems that he favors the extemporaneous method, though he does not say this outright. His main point is that preachers must learn to develop audience awareness, which is the ability to read the audience to see whether they are following and connecting (123).
In Montoya’s final chapter, he calls preachers to preach with imagination. This is an important chapter when considering his target audience, which seems to be conservative, bible-based preachers. Preachers must beware of the tendency toward thinking that only right doctrine and a plain statement of the truth is required in preaching (134). One must only look to the Bible itself for examples of how truth is presented in varying forms (story, poetry, prose etc.).
There are two main weaknesses that must be pointed out. First, Montoya would have done well to devote a whole chapter on the importance of preachers spending time alone with God in His Word and prayer. To his credit, he does touch on this in chapter one under the section “communion with God” (27-30). However, due to the struggle many preachers have in this area, readers would have benefited by Montoya drawing this out further. For example, how does a preacher separate his personal time with God from his sermon preparation? Or, what does a preacher do when he walks in his office and is behind on his prep for the week, is anxious to get started, but he has not yet spent personal time with God? Is it okay to skip personal time with God when crunched for time? Will this result in preaching with less passion?
Secondly, and along these lines, in Montoya’s introduction, he lists five causes of loss of passion. While each cause is helpful, the reviewer believes more time should have been given to the tendency of preachers to put their identity in ministry and not in Christ. There is a subtle tendency among those in ministry to preach the gospel week in and week out to others, but forget to apply that same gospel to their own lives. The inevitable result is a loss of passion. If preachers are to preach with passion, they must fight daily to find their identity, significance, meaning, comfort, joy, and hope vertically (in the gospel) and remember these things will never be found horizontally in ministry success (including preaching with passion).
As one who enjoys reading books about how to improve preaching, the reviewer was not disappointed with Alex Montoya’s Preaching With Passion. The book is outlined very well and is easy to read. He covers a lot of ground while staying focused on his goal to help preachers learn to preach with passion. For preachers, in particular those in the conservative camp that tend to get too bogged down with the details, this book will provide much needed inspiration to mend their ways and never be known as “dull” or “boring” again.