It’s been rightly said that preaching is more caught than taught. But what happens when a baseball player turned preacher and preaching professor writes a book on preaching and the life of the church? Well, it’s possible that what is taught also has the chance of being caught. And more importantly, teachable readers/preachers who read this book will be helped in catching the Christ who inhabits all the Bible.
In Church with Jesus as the Hero, David Prince (Pastor of Preaching and Vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky) along with his church staff have provided a helpful tool for “catching” the centrality of Christ in preaching and ministry. In only 130 pages, Prince et al. have made a compelling case for putting Christ at the center of biblical interpretation, gospel proclamation, singing, counseling, missions, and even church announcements.
While others have reviewed his book in full, I want to highlight the interpretive core of this book which sets it apart from others. While a host of practical applications can be found in Part 3 of the book, it is the method of biblical interpretation that forms the foundation for all that Prince and his pastoral staff undertake to communicate.
Different Pastors, Same Approach to Catching Christ
In Part 1, David Prince lists twelve questions to be asked of the biblical text. Then he and Jeremy Haskins, Casey McCall and Todd Martin outline four passages from the Scripture employing those questions—respectively, David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17); Balaam and the Donkey (Numbers 22); Queen Esther (Esther 2); and Jesus Feeding the 5,000 (John 6).
For me, this is the most unique part of the book. It is the way in which these pastors teach us how to catch Jesus in all parts of the Bible—especially the biblical narratives, which are so readily moralized and allegorized.
These questions are a needed corrective and practical help to ensure biblical interpretation is Christ-centered and that gospel preaching doesn’t drift towards legalism. Moreover, in the context of church life, it is a way that a bullpen of preachers can throw pitches their congregations can catch.
Twelve Questions to Catching Christ in Scripture
Under four headings, here are the 12 questions every leader in the church and reader of the Bible should incorporate into their study of God’s Word.
1. Find the Bad Guy—You
Prince Gives Us a Needed Corrective for Catching Christ in Scripture
I hope you can see how practical these questions are and how they will help anyone—no matter their station in life—read the Bible in light of Christ. They strongly (re)assert the sinfulness of the reader—the true condition of everyone who comes to the Bible. They protect us from using the Bible to make much of ourselves. They emphasize the centrality of Christ, his cross, and his return. And they press upon the reader the need to believe and obey (in faith). In this way they neither completely objectify the Bible—i.e., making a merely historical account without ethical imperatives. But neither do they make the more common devotional mistake of centering the Bible on the reader.
One final observation: A careful reader may notice that these questions are best suited for biblical narrative. And that is true. But that is also the place where evangelicals stumble worst in their reading of Scripture. I would suggest these questions can be employed for reading epistles and wisdom literature, as two examples. In both genres, they will help the reader better hone in on Christ. Still, these questions are best applied to biblical narratives, the most prominent genre in the Bible.
For all these reasons and more, I cannot commend Church with Jesus as Hero enough. It brings back many fond memories for me of my preaching class with David Prince. I am thrilled that his approach to interpretation and preaching and ministry is being broadly distributed today, and I pray that the Christ -exalting truths in this book will sink into the hearts and minds of those in the church.
If they do, then rest assured Christ will receive the place which Scripture gives him—the role of the only begotten of the Father, the hero of redemptive history!
Soli Deo Gloria, ds