Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Simple Book Review: "Preacher, Can You Hear Us Listening?" (2005) by Roger E. Van Harn

Preacher, Can You Hear Us Listening? (2005) by Roger E. Van Harn

Saint Paul [in Romans 10:13-17],” writes Van Harn, “draw our attention to the purpose of preaching – namely, the hearing of Christ. Because faith comes by hearing, he gives a mission order for the church in which hearing has the central place: Sending – Preaching – Hearing – Believing – Calling. The whole mission order includes a church order and a salvation order. The church order comprised of sending, preaching and hearing. The salvation order is comprised of hearing, believing, and calling on the name of the Lord. The mission order joins the church order and the salvation order in the event of hearing. Hearing stands at the centre between preaching and believing. It fulfils the purpose of the sending and makes possible the calling on the name of the Lord.”

To Van Harn, “hearing” is not superior to sending, preaching, believing and calling. But it is central in the church’s mission. Hearing “the word of faith” (Romans 10:8) or hearing “the word of Christ” (10:17) stands at the centre of the mission between speaking (preaching) and believing. Preachers are “pioneer listeners” on behalf of the community of faith. “Pastors occupy a critical position in this economy of ears. We listen to the Word of God so that we can speak it accurately and truly to listening worshipers,” writes Eugene Peterson in his forward to this book, “But we also listen to the words of the men and women who make up the company of worshippers so that we can give witness to the dialogic interchange between God and God’s people that is implicit in all Christian living.” Without listening – both to God and God’s people - there is nothing to preach about.

Even though I see my main calling is as a teacher rather than a preacher, I find that this book is very helpful for me as full-time staff worker. In the student ministry, I need two kinds of listening: #1 Listening to the Bible text; and #2 Listening to the students. My biggest weaknesses to listening to the Bible text is “familiarity.” I have the tendency to find ways to apply the Bible messages creatively and try so hard to make it attractive and interesting without first listen and wrestle with the Bible text. To me, Van Harn writes, “The minister is not called first of all to be creative; he or she is called to be a faithful listener so that others can hear the Word of God”. Then, if I want to be “pioneer listener” I need to listen “to” the students and “with” the students in order to listen “for” the students.

This book is divided into 12 chapters:
1)    Why Should We Listen to Sermons?
2)    Will You Be a Pioneer Listener for Us?
3)    How Can We Hear with All that Noise?
4)    May We Please See the Story behind the Text?
5)    May We Please Hear the Story around the Text?
6)    Does Every Sermon Need a Bible Text?
7)    Can We See What’s Happening in the Light of God’s Story?
8)    Can We See Our Culture in the Light of God’s Story?
9)    In Which Church Should We Listen?
10) Can a Sermon Be the Word of God?
11) Do You Preach for the Church or for the World?
12) Will You Come and Listen to Us?

Because preaching the word of Christ is important, hearing is crucial!

[P.s: I’ve read three books on preaching so far. I Believe in Preaching by John Stott, The Elements of Preaching by Warren Wiersbe, and The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper. Most personal is Stott’s; most practical is Wiersbe’s; and most doctrinal is Piper’s]

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