Recapturing the Voice of God
Steven W Smith, B&H Academic (2015)
In Recapturing the Voice of God, Steven W Smith responds to a weakened form of expository preaching, one that relies on a standard structure and typical three-point approach to the weekly message. Instead, he supports ‘text-driven’ preaching, a methodology in which the structure, substance, and spirit of a biblical text will govern those same three facets of a sermon. Smith explains that ‘we are not after what the text says: we are after what the text means’, encouraging ‘re-animation’ and ‘re-presentation’ of gospel materials.
Smith achieves his goal, but he starts slowly. His introductory chapters should defend and explain the idea, but he spends too little time here. While it might have been abstract work for a practical book, a little more theorising and patient articulation of this approach would have been helpful. Smith also acknowledges but fails to properly address the obvious objection: doesn’t this tactic just replace one set of methodological restrictions with another? The answer seems to be ‘yes and no’, and Smith should be more convincing on the variety of possibilities his method allows.
Fortunately, once the book begins to explore the different broad genres, Smith excels. His model of exegesis is wonderful, both in general insight and in ability to mine the Bible specifically for sermon needs. He focuses on finding the main thrust of a chosen pericope, but also explores ways to limit or expand a selection. He provides strong examples for process and results on even difficult passages.
I would recommend this book for all preachers, particularly those unfamiliar with text-driven (or even expository) preaching and those who find themselves in a rut.
Reviewed by Justin Cober-Lake