Review of Preaching with Accuracy: Finding Christ-Centered Big Ideas for Biblical Preaching by Randal Pelton

4192ACFzqmL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_How can a preacher proclaim God’s Word with greater accuracy?

This is the question Randal Pelton seeks to answer in Preaching with Accuracy: Finding Christ-Centered Big Ideas for Biblical Preaching. Pelton is the senior pastor at Calvary Bible Church in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania and also a professor at Lancaster Bible College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

In this book, Pelton builds on the work and methodology set out by two prominent preaching books (Chapell’s Christ-Centered Preaching and Robinson’s Biblical Preaching) and narrows the focus to helping preachers, “[find] Christ-centered big ideas for biblical preaching, an ability that plays a major role in preaching with greater accuracy” (13).


Pelton shares, “Preaching with greater accuracy involves knowing how big ideas and little ideas interrelate to create meanings” (39). Pelton suggests coming at big ideas from several different angles before zeroing in on a preaching big idea:

• The Textual Big Idea (labeled as texbi)
• The Contextual Big Idea (conbi)
• The Canonical Big Idea (canbi)

The book begins by laying the foundation for both exposition and communicating the big idea before moving on to passage selection, sharing one chapter for each component of the big idea (texbi, conbi, canbi), and closes with advice on putting all of the pieces together in the form of a sermon.

Pelton has been greatly influenced by Timothy Keller’s Christ-centered preaching method and explains how Keller preaches Christ and how application flows from the gospel truths drawn from the text. I found his short interaction with Keller’s method to be especially helpful, especially when followed by a short analysis of others who wouldn’t label themselves as “Christ-centered” preachers fall short.

One of the strengths of Preaching with Accuracy is that it encourages readers to practice finding each component of the big idea. Following a didactic section explaining his process, Pelton provides several exercises and examples to practice with before sharing his own conclusions.

Another thing I appreciated was that Pelton doesn’t oversimplify preaching Christ to the neglect of other members of the Trinity, as many preachers do. We should not only preach Christ, but, according to Pelton, preach “God-in-Christ-by-the-Spirit,” for that is what gives readers true, Trinitarian precision in how gospel transformation takes place. Pelton’s explanation of over-interpretation (finding Christ where he is not) and under-interpretation (often taking the form of moralism) of a text is also very helpful in seeing how the three contextual threads (texbi, conbi, canbi) form one strand of faithful gospel preaching.

Preaching with Accuracy will help many preachers sharpen their understanding of the big idea in preaching and their understanding of how all of Scripture points to Christ. This book not only will shape the mind of preachers, but will provide opportunity to practice what was taught so they will be better equipped to preach with accuracy.

Title: Preaching with Accuracy: Finding Christ-Centered Big Ideas for Biblical Preaching
Author: Randal E. Pelton
Publisher: Kregel
Year: 2014

Editor’s Note: Leadership Resources training in biblical exposition works through eight books of the Bible using hermeneutical principles like structure and the big idea of a text. Learn more about our training or look through our Dig & Discover Hermeneutical Principles Booklet.

Phillip Jensen on Applying the Bible to Everyday Life


Australian minister and Bible teacher Phillip Jensen shares in the video below wisdom on applying the Bible to everyday life, in which he mentions the relationship between biblical theology and application, and also how to avoid legalism in applying Scripture.

Here are some helpful quotes from Jensen:

  • “To preach the gospel without being able to call on people to repent is not to preach the gospel, because the gospel preaches repentance.”
  • “Application flows from the Scriptures.”
  • “Look into the Scripture passage itself and understand it in depth…the applications will become apparent. If you can’t find the applications in the Scripture, I’d suggest you still need to keep looking.” (Jensen’s #1 Tip for Applying Scripture)
  • “Legalism comes from adding application on the Scriptures instead of drawing application out of the Scriptures.”
  • “Biblical theology as a subject helps you perceive what the Bible itself is saying, rather than looking at the congregation and thinking this is what they need to hear.”

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Attention Church: Our Preachers Still Need Our Prayers


This post is a continuation of a two-part series on prayer and the act of preaching. Read Part One.

In the book of Acts, it’s hard to miss the fact that the apostles gave their attention “to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). But what does this actually mean? Up to this point in Acts, there hasn’t been that much praying (so, for example, it isn’t even completely clear whether 2:42 means ‘they prayed’ or ‘they kept going to the temple’). But in Acts 4:24-30 we see that when the church prays, it prays for the preaching of the apostles. And although I can’t prove it, I suspect that from this point on in Acts praying for the impact of the apostles’ preaching is considered a complete no-brainer. We can see basically the same concern when Paul writes to the Colossians:

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. (Col 4:2–4)

Paul clearly expects—and longs for—the prayers of the Christians at Colossae for his preaching.

So what should we do? Let me give you a straightforward double challenge.

First, resolve to make sure that from now on (whatever your habit has been in the past), you will pray for your own preaching. Perhaps you have been totally consistent in this for years. It may be that you would never dream of standing up to speak to anyone without praying that God would help you to believe and live your own sermon. And it may be that you always pray for those on whom you are about to inflict the sermon—if that’s you, well and good. However, if you are part of the (large?) number of Bible teachers who would be rather embarrassed (or deeply ashamed?) if the amount of time and energy they had put into praying through and for the sermon were to be announced to the congregation just before they stood up to speak, this may be a great time to hit the reset button and repent.

The second part of the challenge is this: make sure that your church prays together for the preaching. I haven’t done any exhaustive research (well, actually, I haven’t done any research at all on this), but I suspect that the church prayer meeting is in rapid decline. The growth of home groups is, I think, a really good thing, but it doesn’t come without a cost. In my experience, the cost is that the ‘prayer’ part of the home group is always weaker than the study part. The net result is that we pray more for my Aunt Nelly’s next-door neighbour’s friend’s daughter than we do for the proclamation of the message of Jesus. (And it’s not that my Aunt Nelly’s next-door neighbour’s friend’s daughter doesn’t need prayer—I’m arguing for both/and rather than either/or.) So, again, it’s just worth checking—is there a dedicated time during the week when people gather specifically to pray for our core business? If not, please make one.

Book-Cover-Saving-Eutychus-Preaching-Gary-Millar-and-Phil-Campbell-197x300—Gary Millar is Principal of Queensland Theological College (QTC), Brisbane, Australia.

This post was written by Gary Millar in Saving Eutychus: How to Preach God’s word and keep people awake and has been used with permission. Buy Saving Eutychus: Amazon | Matthias Media

Two Potential Dangers of Podcast Preaching


Those of you under 40 may find it difficult to imagine that when I was a student minister, we had to go to a place called a ‘library’ to find information in ‘books’. Occasionally, we were also able to get things called ‘cassettes’. Since cassettes were (a) expensive, and (b) hard to get, they were passed around, used, re-used and abused. (In fact, I would still love to hear the end of the Martyn Lloyd-Jones talk on Romans 11 that someone recorded ABBA’s Greatest Hits over!) Contrast that with today—a quick glance at The Gospel Coalition website gives instant access to thousands of excellent expository sermons. The issue today isn’t lack of resources, but rather how ‘ordinary’ pastors compete for the listening ears of their congregations with the ‘big guns’, whose sermons are available live (or at least later on the same day they were preached).

There are, of course, many ways in which this is a good thing—I mean, seriously, can we ever have too much good teaching? And yet there are dangers.

  • One of these is that teaching the Bible becomes completely detached from loving relationship.1
  • Another danger stems from the fact that people place far too much emphasis on the preacher as ‘performer’ (or even ‘personality’). And when that happens, it effectively removes the need for prayer.

In the local church, if we are regularly rubbing shoulders with those who preach, we know that there are weeks when they are under huge pressure to carve out enough time to prepare properly; we know that there are weeks when they just can’t nail their sermon; we know that there are weeks when their kids are playing up, or they are working through marital issues, or they are feeling under the weather.

And so we pray.

We know that our friends—those who have just received crushing health news, who have recently been bereaved, who are struggling with anger, who are trying to deal with pride, who have sinned sexually—will be listening to this sermon. We know how much we need God. And so we pray (or so we know we should). But if we are sitting in front of a screen watching or listening to an old sermon preached by a guy we don’t know, in a place we’ve never been, to people we’ve never met, it isn’t quite the same. To put it bluntly, it doesn’t really matter to us if God showed up and addressed his people through his word that day. It doesn’t really matter what was going on in that church. So why should we pray? The connection between our prayers and the sermon is broken—and when that happens, it isn’t easily fixed.

Preachers praying

I could be wrong, but I strongly suspect that preachers are praying less today too. They (we) are certainly talking less about prayer than, say, 20 years ago. And while it’s true that there has been a significant resurgence of biblical preaching, I’m not sure this has been accompanied by a resurgence in praying—and especially not prayer about preaching. Gradually, we seem to be losing sight of the fact that God uses weak and sinful people, and that he uses them only by grace. Yes, we may sow, plant and water—but only God gives growth. That’s true in your local church and mine. It’s also true of every podcast and ebook and conference address under the sun.

God doesn’t use people because they are gifted. He uses people (even preachers) because he is gracious. Do we actually believe that? If we do believe it, then we will pray—we will pray before we speak, and we will pray for others before they speak. It’s that simple.

Book-Cover-Saving-Eutychus-Preaching-Gary-Millar-and-Phil-Campbell-197x300—Gary Millar is Principal of Queensland Theological College (QTC), Brisbane, Australia.

This post was written by Gary Millar in Saving Eutychus: How to Preach God’s word and keep people awake and has been used with permission. Paragraphs and bullet points have been changed.

Buy Saving Eutychus: Amazon | Matthias Media 

1Bullet points are original

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God’s Word: Setting Hearts—and Idols—on Fire!


“So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.”

Those are the words recorded by Luke in Acts 19:20. These words describe what we are trying to do all over the world: make God’s Word spread widely with power!

Screen-Shot-2015-03-31-at-4.11.57-PM-300x198Gustin, one of the pastors we train in Indonesia, is doing his part to make this happen. Every six months Gustin makes a grueling 14-hour trip from his remote island to receive training in Training National Trainers (TNT), and his efforts are not in vain.

He’s already put his training into practice by preaching evangelistically to a group of animists near where he lives. Animists, like the ones Gustin ministers to, combine spirit worship with some elements of Christianity for a hodge-podge of beliefs that fall way short of Scripture and the true Gospel.                                                                                                                          Gustin (on the left) during a TNT session.

Even so, they do know several stories from Genesis. Gustin decided to use this fact—and the training in Genesis he had received—to his advantage by preaching the gospel to them from the biblical stories they already knew.

Screen-Shot-2015-04-01-at-11.54.28-AM-300x199Gustin preached from Genesis 3 that Christ is the promised seed of Eve who would crush the serpent’s head. He explained from Genesis 4 that the blood sacrifice Abel made points to our need for a blood sacrifice for our sins and that Christ is that blood sacrifice.

As soon as these animists heard the true Gospel, they believed!

After they saw the light and professed Christ, they took their wooden carvings, prayer belts and other mementos from their animist past, piled them up, and set them ablaze. This burning ceremony celebrated the amazing work of God in their lives by destroying tokens from their previous life.

God’s Word is spreading widely with great power in Indonesia!

God is using the Training National Trainers program in amazing ways to equip men like Gustin to reach all sorts of people—including former spirit-worshipping animists. Praise be to God!

Thank you for your partnership in ministry!


Craig Parro
President of Leadership Resources

PS: Another TNT group in Indonesia is short of funding. Please pray with us that we don’t have to shut down the group and that God would provide the necessary funding.

A special gift this month will go a long way in keeping this movement going.




Trusting God for Deliverance When Terror Looms


When in an impossible situation, how do you respond? How do you trust God when your hope is gone?

Those are questions that the prophet Habakkuk asked during the situation he wrote the biblical book that bears his name.

Habakkuk first asked God how he can tolerate the violence and wickedness among His people in Judah. God’s response was that He had a plan: to send the notorious Chaldeans to come and judge His people. This wasn’t the answer Habakkuk was looking for, and he proceeded to complain again to God and ask how God can punish His wicked people with a nation even more wicked.

God replied that after they judge His people, they would be judged for what they do and that the righteous will live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4). Habakkuk 3 records the prophet’s vision of the warrior God coming to judge His enemies and save His people. Habakkuk is able to confess trust in the Sovereign God:

I hear, and my body trembles;
my lips quiver at the sound;
rottenness enters into my bones;
my legs tremble beneath me.
Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble
to come upon people who invade us.
Habakkuk 3:16

Jorge’s Story of Trust

In January of this year, our Honduras team and students had a powerful time contemplating these truths during training in Habakkuk. Habakkuk’s situation is so much like the situation in Honduras – with wickedness, violence, and injustice everywhere. The situation in Honduras made the international news weeks before the training when Miss Honduras and her sister were brutally murdered.

During our training, a pastor learning biblical exposition with us named Jorge preached on Habakkuk 3 and shared a powerful personal story of how God taught Him to quietly trust God for deliverance when terror looms.

Jorge-Guillen-2-300x199Several years ago, there was a notorious gang member in our city. I knew who he was.

Once, while we were at church, he got into my house and took everything – he even took my stove.

And he left me a note which said, “You know who I am. You know who got into your house. If you tell the police, your wife and your daughters will pay.”

His threat pushed me to think in a human – and very fleshly – way. I talked with my brother, who was not a Christian back then. He came to my house, and he gave me a big shotgun and bullets.

Every night for one week I went to the outside of my house and waited for that gang member to show up so I could shoot him…

Every night for one week I went to the outside of my house and waited for that gang member to show up so I could shoot him, because I said in my heart that I was going to kill him. I was saying, “God, this guy is a parasite for society. And someone has to remove him, and if he’s going to mess with my family, well, I should better do something first.”

I remember one morning, I went outside of my house to read the Bible. And I opened my Bible to chapter 14 of Exodus. And in Exodus 14:14, it says, “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

With that verse, God changed my heart and my way of thinking. I called my brother and told him,

“Come, pick up your gun. I don’t need it. God will fight for us.”

“Come, pick up your gun. I don’t need it. God will fight for us.”

One week after reading that Scripture and God changing the attitude of my heart, the man was killed.

He was shot with 80 bullets, and he was dead. Of course, he was killed because he was a robber. I didn’t thank God for that. I did understand that God was protecting me and my family. He will fight for us.

And in Habakkuk 3:3-15, Habakkuk presents God as a warrior, as the God who fights for us, as a God that makes things better than we can with our own strength.

Habakkuk’s words are full of poetic figures that connect with all the historical acts that God has done – when He opened the Red Sea, when He stopped the sun for Joshua, when He gave water from the rock for his people, when God provided food for his people. Habakkuk is saying, “This is the God who will fight our wars against our enemies.”

God will fight for us.

Jorge’s faith in that powerful truth stopped him from doing something he would regret the rest of his life, and is a great illustration of a key theme in Habakkuk, that, “the righteous will live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4).

Habakkuk-3-18-19-Sermon-Illustration-Trusting-God-300x295Whether you have endured a situation similar to Jorge’s or not, God will fight for you and you can confess the following words of Habakkuk in faith:

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.
Habakkuk 3:17-19

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10 Recommended Books on Biblical Theology

Many see the Bible as a compilation of books that are loosely related, with no coherent thread holding them together.

Jesus Himself said He is that thread of Scripture (see John 5:39-40; Luke 24:27). When we understand this, our biblical understanding grows. We no longer see the Bible as a collection of random books, but as one book with one story that all testifies about Jesus Christ. The study of this idea is called biblical theology, and it is essential for the health of the church and the task of expository preaching.

When we teach biblical theology to pastors in the Fellowship of the Word program, we often hear comments like that of one trainee in east Asia: “Learning Biblical Theology has provided a major breakthrough for me and the church – a total change in our framework.

Our goal with our list below is not to be comprehensive, but give a sampling of the best biblical theology books available. May God cause many more “breakthroughs” to happen as people understand His Word at a deeper level!

You may also be interested in: 10 Recommended Books on Expository Preaching

q1. God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible by Vaughan Roberts

An Easy-to-Read Introduction to Biblical Theology

Sixty-six books written by forty people over nearly 2,000 years, in two languages and several different genres. A worldwide bestseller published in countless sizes and bindings, translations and languages. Sworn by in court, fought over by religious people, quoted in arguments. The Bible is clearly no ordinary book. How can you begin to read and understand it as a whole? In this excellent overview, Vaughan Roberts gives you the big picture–showing how the different parts of the Bible fit together under the theme of the kingdom of God. He provides both the encouragement and the tools to help you read the Bible with confidence and understanding. And he points you to the Bible’s supreme subject, Jesus Christ, and the salvation God offers through him.

Watch or Download: Free Online Video Course of God’s Big Picture

Graeme-Goldsworthy-Gospel-and-Kingdom2. Gospel and Kingdom by Graeme Goldsworthy

A Great Introduction to Biblical Theology

Gospel and Kingdom is concerned with finding the gospel principles inherent in the Pentateuch and historical books of the Old Testament. In an engaging and straightforward style, Graeme Goldsworthy explains the nature and contents of the Old Testament as seen within the Bible as a whole and sets out clear principles for interpreting it accurately for today.

q3. Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture: The Application of Biblical Theology to Expository Preaching by Graeme Goldsworthy

Biblical Theology as it relates to Preaching

While strong, gospel-centered preaching abounds, many Christian pastors and lay preachers find it difficult to preach meaningfully from the Old Testament. This practical handbook offers help. Graeme Goldsworthy teaches the basics of preaching the whole Bible in a consistently Christ-centered way.

Goldsworthy first examines the Bible, biblical theology, and preaching and shows how they relate in the preparation of Christ-centered sermons. He then applies the biblical-theological method to the various types of literature found in the Bible, drawing out their contributions to expository preaching focused on the person and work of Christ.

Clear, complete, and immediately applicable, this volume will become a fundamental text for teachers, pastors, and students preparing for ministry.

q4. Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church: A Guide for Ministry (9Marks) by Michael Lawrence

Biblical Theology as it relates to Ministry in the Church

Capitol Hill Baptist Church associate pastor Michael Lawrence contributes to the IXMarks series as he centers on the practical importance of biblical theology to ministry. He begins with an examination of a pastor’s tools of the trade: exegesis and biblical and systematic theology. The book distinguishes between the power of narrative in biblical theology and the power of application in systematic theology, but also emphasizes the importance of their collaboration in ministry.

Having laid the foundation for pastoral ministry, Lawrence uses the three tools to build a biblical theology, telling the entire story of the Bible from five different angles. He puts biblical theology to work in four areas: counseling, missions, caring for the poor, and church/state relations. Rich in application and practical insight, this book will equip pastors and church leaders to think, preach, and do ministry through the framework of biblical theology.

q5. Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament by Christopher J. H. Wright

Wright focuses on the person and mission of Jesus as described in the Old Testament

We cannot know Jesus without knowing his story. Today the debate over who Jesus is rages on. Has the Bible bound Christians to a narrow and mistaken notion of Jesus? Should we listen to other gospels, other sayings of Jesus, that enlarge and correct a mistaken story? Is the real Jesus entangled in a web of the church’s Scripture, awaiting liberation from our childhood faith so he might speak to our contemporary pluralistic world? To answer these questions we need to know what story Jesus claimed for himself. Christopher Wright is convinced that Jesus’ own story is rooted in the story of Israel. In this book he traces the life of Christ as it is illuminated by the Old Testament. And he describes God’s design for Israel as it is fulfilled in the story of Jesus.

q6. The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament by Edmund Clowney

A popular scholarly treatment of Christ in the Old Testament

Have you ever wondered what Christ said to his disciples on the Emmaus road—making their hearts burn? Follow Ed Clowney through the Old Testament as he shows how all the Scriptures point to Christ.

As you explore Old Testament characters and events, you’ll be inspired by the many specific insights they give us into Jesus’ character and lordship.

7. Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments by Geerhardus Vos

A classic work (originally published in 1948) that broke ground in the study of Biblical Theology from “The Father of Reformed Biblical Theology”.

The aim of this book is no less than to provide an account of the unfolding of the mind of God in history, through the successive agents of his special revelation. Vos handles this under three main divisions: the Mosaic epoch of revelation, the prophetic epoch of revelation, and the New Testament. Such an historical approach is not meant to supplant the work of the systematic theologian; nevertheless, the Christian gospel is inextricably bound up with history, and the biblical theologian thus seeks to highlight the uniqueness of each biblical document in that succession. The rich variety of Scripture is discovered anew as the progressive development of biblical themes is explicated.

8. New Dictionary of Biblical Theology: Exploring the Unity & Diversity of Scripture edited by Brian S. Rosner, T. Desmond Alexander, Graeme Goldsworthy, D. A. Carson

qIf you only buy one of these books, you should seriously consider this comprehensive reference work.

The New Dictionary of Biblical Theology will quickly establish itself as an essential building block of every library of basic biblical reference books. This work takes readers to a higher vantage point where they can view the thematic terrain of the Bible in its canonical wholeness. At the heart of this work is an A-to-Z encyclopedia of over 200 key biblical-theological themes such as atonement, creation, eschatology, Israel, Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God, redemption, suffering, wisdom and worship. Students and communicators of the Bible will be well served by articles exploring the theology of each biblical book. And for those interested in the wider discipline of biblical theology, major articles explore foundational issues such as the history of biblical theology, the challenges raised against biblical theology, and the unity and diversity of Scripture. Over 120 contributors drawn from the front ranks of biblical scholarship in the English-speaking world make the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology a work of distinction and a benchmark of evangelical biblical theology at the turn of the twenty-first century.

q9. The Faith of Israel: A Theological Survey of the Old Testament by William J. Dumbrell

This work will open up the Old Testament for you. 

For years, William Dumbrell’s comprehensive survey, The Faith of Israel, has introduced students and pastors to the theological emphases of the Old Testament. Dumbrell traces the theological movement of each Old Testament book through the Hebrew canonical sequence of Law, Prophets, and Writings, “the manner in which Israel presented her faith.” He not only brings forth insightful points and themes within each book, but he also makes original and refreshing connections to themes in other Old Testament books. This in turn leads to a discussion of the theology of the entire Old Testament canon.

10. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament edited by D.A. Carson and G.K. Beale

This academic reference book will help readers understand the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament.

Readers of the New Testament often encounter quotes or allusions to Old Testament stories and prophecies that are unfamiliar or obscure. In order to fully understand the teachings of Jesus and his followers, it is important to understand the large body of Scripture that preceded and informed their thinking. Leading evangelical scholars G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson have brought together a distinguished team to provide readers with a comprehensive commentary on Old Testament quotations, allusions, and echoes that appear from Matthew through Revelation. College and seminary students, pastors, scholars, and interested lay readers will want to add this unique commentary to their reference libraries.

Bonus Books:

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