Kim, Julius J. Preaching the Whole Counsel of God: Design and Deliver Gospel-Centered Sermons. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015, 239 pages, $24.99, hardcover.
All pastors experience seasons of ministry when they begin to wrestle with some aspect of their preaching. Maybe it’s the effectiveness of their illustrations or applications, the nagging feeling that their sermons lack any real connection to the gospel, or recognizing that parts of their delivery are more distracting than beneficial. In Preaching the Whole Counsel of God, Julius Kim (Ph.D., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) provides pastors an introductory manual that overviews the entire process of preparing and delivering gospel-centered sermons.
Kim likens preachers to heralds, who seek “to bring all that we are and have to bear upon the glorious task of speaking for the King” (21). In their quest to understand the words of the King and effectively convey his message, preachers must: 1) “discover the truth of the text according to the human author”; 2) “discern Christ in the text according to the Divine author”; 3) “design a sermon that is true, good, and beautiful”; and 4) “deliver the sermon for attention, retention, integration, and transformation” (21). Kim walks readers through the task of preaching using four parts, the first three focus on preparing the sermon, while part four is dedicated to sermon delivery.
How to Discover the Truth of the Text
According to Kim, preachers should refuse the urge to jump straight into the task of interpretation. Instead, preachers are best served by involving the Holy Spirit in praying, selecting, reading, and meditating on their preaching passage before attempting to write their sermon (25–35). These often overlooked steps help you remember that “[every] effort in sermon preparation is worthless without the accompanying work of the Holy Spirit’s work” (26).
Kim suggests three types of analysis for interpreting the text: linguistic, literary, and life-setting. In interpretation, preachers are seeking to discover what the text actually says, how it says it, and when and why it is being said (39). As Kim helps readers through the process of interpretation and application, the influence of Bryan Chapell and the “fallen-condition focus” on his method is apparent. Kim uses the FCF to bridge the gap between discovering what the text means and applying it to hearers. As preachers discover the truth of the text and determine the FCF, Kim encourages them to “[start] thinking about the Christ-focused connection (CFC) of the text. How does the gospel of Jesus Christ solve the problem(s) introduced by the FCF” (47)?
How to Discern Christ in the Text
When preachers prepare their sermons, they are not only seeking to discover the truth of the text, but they must also discern how Christ is in their text. For Kim, preaching Christ in every sermon is biblical, foundational, and practical (52–66). After explaining why preachers should preach Christ-centered sermons, Kim turns to show readers how they can faithfully preach Christ from the different genres in the Old and New Testaments. The strength of this section is Kim’s ability to clearly explain how to preach Christ from the whole counsel of God while providing readers with two Christ-centered sermons that demonstrate how it can be done. Readers will gain confidence in their ability to also preach Christ in their sermons.
How to Design a Sermon
Drawing from the philosophy of an ancient Roman architect named Vitruvius, Kim proposes sermons be constructed around three elements: truth, goodness, and beauty. Like a good building, sermons designed on truth, goodness, and beauty will be “true to their nature, good for their occupants, and beautiful to all” (142). For a preacher’s sermon to be characterized by truth, it must be “accurate and consistent with the message that was entrusted to him” (145). For sermons to be good, preachers must share from God’s Word what benefits their hearers, namely, the life-transforming gospel (145–146). Sermons built on beauty do more than instruct; they stir hearts and move individuals to delight. Bringing all the aspects of sermon design together, Kim takes the elements of truth, goodness, and beauty, and demonstrates how they apply to the various parts of a sermon.
How to Deliver a Sermon
While interpretation and sermon design requires the most time and energy, Kim reminds readers that sermon delivery is important and must not become an afterthought. His unique contribution comes in his application of neuroscience to designing and delivering a sermon. Kim helps his audience understand how the preacher’s dress, illustrations, repetition, eye contact, and other aspects of sermon design and delivery can dramatically affect the attention, retention, integration, and transformation of his listeners. When preachers understand how the brain functions, they can better maximize the effectiveness and impact of their sermons.
Assessment of the Book
Overall, Preaching the Whole Counsel of God is an instructive and practical guide to designing and delivering gospel-centered sermons that showcases Kim’s many years of experience behind the pulpit and in the classroom. His wisdom is beneficial for new and seasoned preachers alike.
Kim’s systematic, multi-stepped approach to hermeneutics and sermon design can feel overwhelming at times. To those who are just beginning their preaching ministry, his approach might seem difficult to put into practice because of how many steps and considerations he suggests at each point of interpreting a passage and designing a sermon. But, if followed, Kim’s model will help any reader better understand the work needed to produce and deliver effective, gospel-centered sermons.
The strongest part of Kim’s book is his section on Christ-centered preaching. For those wanting to understand how to discern and proclaim Christ from the whole counsel of God, Kim offers convincing reasons why preachers should preach Christ in every sermon. He does this by providing specific ways passages might connect to the person and/or work of Christ, strategies for preaching Christ from different genres in Scripture, and two examples of Christ-centered sermons. His passion for preaching Christ is convicting and encouraging.
Preaching the Whole Counsel of God is an accessible, helpful introduction to homiletics that I recommend all pastors read. This volume leaves no stone unturned in the process of designing and delivering sermons. Preachers will be encouraged by Kim’s consistent focus on the importance of prayer, the Holy Spirit, and preaching the gospel in every sermon.