Published by Zondervan
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Most preaching books read like how to manuals. They instruct you on how to study your Bible as you prepare your sermon, they often give you helpful hints on how to use speech skills to communicate effectively, and many preaching books may give you ideas on how to be more “contemporary” or “user-friendly”. For people who grown have tired of books on preaching like this, Folly, Grace and Power by John Koessler will come as a breath of fresh air. Koessler asks and begins to answer the questions, “Just what is God doing when his word is preached?” and “How do we understand the preaching event theologically?”
These questions are essential in our day and time. Too much of what passes for teaching and preaching in our culture is pure drivel, with all of the appeal of an infomercial. Koessler brings us back to basics in Folly, Grace and Power, as he challenges us to notice what God does through preaching, and how the act of preaching can be done in a way that honors the mysterious power and work of Jesus Christ.
Much of this text is not easy for the typical preacher to hear. Folly, Grace and Power challenges its readers to pay more careful attention to what is happening when the gospel is preached, and to preach with excellence in order to please God and not to please human beings. Over and over again, in its own way, it challenges those that preach to have the courage to be honest, even when it is not easy. Koessler says toward the end of the book, “Preaching is having the last word. To preach is to take your stand before the pit and bear witness to the rubble of this ash-heap world that the kingdom of God is at hand….preaching is an eschatological act” (p. 130).
Koessler believes that most pastors have abdicated their posts as their church’s resident theologians. At times, he argues, this is because it is difficult to bridge the gap between the theology of the academy, and the lived theology of the lay person. So pastors either chose to preach over their congregation’s head, or they avoid theology entirely. Instead, Koessler encourages us to communicate good theology in ways that the average person can understand. In this sense, the pastor is a translator or intercessor of sorts between God and his people.
I believe that Folly, Grace, and Power is one of the best preaching books to come out in years. For the careful reader, it will encourage pastors and lay persons to put, “first things first.”