Topical Preaching in a Complex World – Sam Chan and Malcolm Gill

Topical Preaching in a Complex World Sam Chan Malcolm Gill
Topical Preaching in a Complex World: How to Proclaim Truth and Relevance at the Same Time by Sam Chan, Malcolm Gill
Published by Zondervan Academic on December 7, 2021
Genres: Academic, Non-Fiction
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Be Equipped to Prepare and Deliver Engaging, Biblical, and Effective Topical Sermons
Sooner or later, every preacher will come upon a situation where they need to preach a topical sermon. Yet few are taught to preach topically. Even preachers who are gifted in expositing the Scriptures may struggle to deliver a topical sermon that is engaging, culturally relevant, and true to the biblical text. Worse, many pastors worry these messages undermine confidence in the Bible or its authority, leading to a human-centered rather than a God-focused sermon. But that doesn't have to be the case.
In Topical Preaching in a Complex World, Sam Chan and Malcolm Gill answer these objections and chart a path for how preachers can deliver faithful and effective topical messages. First, they address the biblical, theological, and cultural reasons pastors should add topical sermons to their preaching repertoire. Then, they introduce a straightforward, four-fold approach for preaching a topical message and answer important questions like these:
How do you approach a topic with the proper interpretative lens?How can you speak to two or more audiences with the same sermon?What should you consider theologically, culturally, and pastorally in your preparation?How do you trace the topic back to Christ?How can you better connect with your audience?Best of all, they help readers craft a message that says something people truly need (and want) to hear! Filled with wit, humor, and wisdom from decades of preaching, this book will equip preachers, pastors, ministry leaders, and students to preach relevant, biblical, and engaging topical sermons.
Author Sam Chan says, "Just over a decade ago, I was asked by an organization to speak at their end-of-year dinner. They wanted me to address the topic of being a Christian single, but I had no idea how to prepare and deliver a topical talk. When the night arrived, I preached an old three-point expository sermon and merely changed the ending to include some application on singleness. At best, I got some polite comments afterwards. At worst, people's looks indicated that my biblical talk had little relevance for them. They could not have been less fooled by my disingenuous workaround.

I went home vowing never to repeat that poor performance. I felt like the unfaithful servant who had not adequately used what talents had been given to him. As a result, I have dedicated the last decade of my preaching ministry to overcoming and mastering the art of topical preaching. This book is a product of that journey."

I’ve always been an exegetical preacher. Not to the extent that some people are—because if you go to some theological circles you’ll find those that think it’s heresy to preach any other way—but it’s my preferred style based on the way I learn and the way I preach. However, topical preaching certainly has its place. The trick is knowing how to be topical in a way that is relevant, robust, and faithful to Scripture. Topical Preaching in a Complex World is a handbook on how to do just that.

Written by Sam Chan and Malcolm Gill, this volume is a must for any pastor—regardless of how they preach. Chan and Gill begin with a defense of topical preaching and outline its benefits while building a methodology for developing topical messages. The middle part of the book works with exegetical preaching as well, though obviously the authors tailor their comments and perspective toward topical work. Gill writes about how to preach to both believers and nonbelievers, offering something of value for a diverse set of people. Chan follows with chapters on how to address a topic theologically and culturally. Then Gill concludes with a chapter on preaching pastorally. This is really the meat of the book, as both Gill and Chan run through some ideas for how to develops messages that have the audience in mind.

The chapter on preaching pastorally is particularly relevant, as the way in which one covers certain topics—particularly ones that are personal or contentious—can say as much or even more than the message itself. I recall preaching through the Sermon on the Mount and reaching the section where Jesus teaches on divorce. As I was preaching exegetically, it was not a surprise to anyone what I would be speaking on. What was less clear is what I would say or what tone I would take. Wanting to be sensitive to divorced members in the congregation, I ended up contacting all of them and letting them know I would be developing my message knowing it to be a difficult subject. Understanding my audience pastorally helped inform how I preached prophetically.

I came away from Topical Preaching in a Complex World with a better appreciation of topical preaching and a much-improved understanding of how to develop topical messages and sermon series. In the end, it comes down to knowing your audience and having a deep enough knowledge of Scripture to ensure that your topicality accurately represents Christian teaching. Topical preaching is to exegetical preaching what systematic theology is to biblical scholarship. They’re vastly different approaches that view the same material through different lenses to engage people in different ways about the same message of Scripture. Whether you’ve been in ministry for five months or fifty years, there’s something to learn within these pages.