Since my name is Nate Archer and I have a blog called Stay on Target it is impossible for me not to like a book titled The Archer and the Arrow. This is a book about communicating God’s Word in a way that faithfully delivers God’s truth to people. As the authors state, the task of the preacher is to “preach the gospel by prayerfully expounding the Bible to the people God has given me to love” (22).
The authors use the analogy of an arrow in comparison to a sermon. An arrow has three main parts: the arrowhead, the shaft, and the feathers. The arrowhead is the part of the arrow that does the damage. It is the part that penetrates. In a sermon, this is the part that pierces the heart. This is the part that convicts the listener of the reality of God’s truth and how it impacts their life. However, the authors explain, the arrowhead can’t work on its own. It has to be carried forward by the shaft of the arrow. In a sermon, the shaft is exegesis. This is the careful work of properly drawing out and understanding the real intended meaning of the passage. Finally, the feathers correspond to theology. Good feathers help an arrow to flight straight. In the same way, good theology helps a sermon to fly true. As the authors state, “Because every sermon has feathers attached, whether knowingly or not, one mark that distinguishes the good preacher from other preachers is the ability to understand how the preacher’s own feathers have affected the shaping of his arrows” (66).
The pastor must not only have good arrows, he must also know how to fire the bow. The archer must understand how interference from the wind can keep the arrow from hitting the target. In preaching, this means we must realize that although God’s Word is carried forward by supernatural power, there are still “real world” issues that can hinder communication. For example, it is foolish to ignore the fact that people will have a hard time hearing the truth if they are too cool, too tired, or too hungry to listen. The authors explain, “[In this world] there are many barriers to communication. These barriers range from profound to almost inconsequential. They include things like language and personal relationships—you may choose to ignore everything a preacher says because for some reason you don’t like him . . . or it may be the mundane realities of communication—the PA system is playing up and people can’t actually hear what we are saying” (88). Wisdom involves minimizing unnecessary barriers.
The challenge is twofold. On the one hand we must resist being seduced by the promise of savvy communication, and on the other we must not resort to using ‘special revelation’ as an excuse for our own ineptitude (91).
On the other hand—and more importantly—it is critical to realize that communication skills and charm can never reach past the ear to the heart. It is the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit that causes His message to penetrate the heart. That is why preaching must be done with prayer and dependence for God to do what only He can do. We must avoid the temptation of using manipulation to get quick, visible results. It is easy to get people to leave happy and come back with friends if we tell them only what they want to hear. Unfortunately, many preachers today “think we will understand the sheep better by listening to them rather than listening to their creator” (94). It is a tragedy to make the Bible “relevant” to people by making it irrelevant to God. In fact, we don’t need to make the Bible relevant at all. It already is relevant because “it addresses us, as we are, about the problems that most desperately plague us, and provides God’s own remedy for our maladies” (95). The gospel provides the real remedy for our deepest and most real problems. Preach it undiluted, with the confidence that God's power goes with it.
Faithful preaching centers on God’s gospel. It is for God’s glory, not our own. Good preaching exalts God, not the preacher.
We long to hear people say, ‘He’s a great preacher.’ But we forget that what they are really saying is: ‘He’s a funny guy who possesses natural comedic timing and a winsome smile.’ If we are preaching for the sake of God’s honor, then we will long for our hearers to say, “Jesus is a great Saviour’ not ‘He is a great preacher' (92).
The Archer and the Arrow is not a comprehensive manual on the art of preaching but it is a solid and foundational book about the heart of preaching. The more a pastor has this heart the more his preaching will stay on target.
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