Josh Moody and Robin Weekes. Burning Hearts: Preaching to the Affections. Scotland: Christian Focus, 2014. 144 pp. $11.99.
It’s been quite the rage to publish books on the subject of expository preaching. This resurgence of interest in preaching expositorily is, of course, welcomed. Yet, it is infrequent to find a work on the subject of homiletics that hones in on a particular area of interest within this discipline. Most books seem to be introductory, aerial views of the broad subject of preaching. Unlike the others, Burning Hearts by Josh Moody and Robin Weekes is one of the anomalies; this, too, is welcomed!
Pastors Josh Moody and Robin Weekes zero in on preaching that makes much of Christ and captivates hearts toward his beauty. They describe this kind of preaching as that, which, preaches to the affections. This sort of preaching is neither sentimental nor sensational but affective. They say: “When we talk about preaching to the affections, we do not mean preaching that is sentimental, or touch-feely, or lacking intellectual rigour or content” (14). Rather, they assert, “Affections are more than emotions (though they include them). Affections are defined by their result: they are what happens within someone when action is produced … Preaching to the affections means preaching that targets the heart” (15).
Thus, in this handy and instructive work, Moody and Weekes collaborate to produce a guide for preachers to preach to hearer’s affections – including discussions on why they should preach to the affections and how to accomplish this task. Furthermore, they offer four case studies of sermon manuscripts – with commentary and dialogue – that are illustrative of Burning Hearts’ primary proposition.
The authors are the first to admit that this subject is an area that they wish to develop first and foremost in themselves. “We’re writing this book chiefly for our own benefit as we realize how much we have to learn about the place of the affections in our walk with Christ and in preaching Him to ourselves and others” (9). So with a humbleness and inquisitive focus, Moody and Weakes share what they’ve learned as they’ve studied forerunners who preached Christ with an aim to affect their congregation.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
The subject of homiletics is already a delicate matter; approaching the specialized subject of reaching people’s affections requires precision and accuracy to hit this subject repeatedly, on mark, without going afield into antics, which pull on heart strings, with sincere but misguided motives, that ultimately leaves hearers with warm fuzzies but unmoved souls. Burning Hearts does not, even for a moment, step into this snare.
Moody and Weekes emphasize that affections cannot and should not be manipulated; Affections are fueled by putting emphasis on the person of Christ and presenting him, rightfully, as altogether lovely. Moreover, Burning Hearts, though tackling the fundamentals of reaching people’s affections, always places at the forefront God’s providential work in hearer’s lives.
Also, Burning Hearts does not stop at mere text-centered preaching. I love this: “Preaching that takes the affections seriously will move us from merely understanding a passage to meeting a person” (35). Preaching to the affections is best done in expository fashion — “We believe expository preaching is the queen of sermonic forms” (26) – but it does not stop short by encouraging preachers to simply present their study of a passage; truly preaching to the affections presses in to studying the person of Jesus Christ. “Jesus Christ is the hermeneutical key which unlocks every part of the Bible” (27).
The component I most appreciated about Burning Hearts is how it engages the contemporary phenomenon that we live in an age of affections (chapter 5). Thus, the authors plan to leverage people’s inclination towards postmodern thinking without exploiting this inclination.
Meanwhile, Burning Hearts does not neglect the vintage value Patristic, Puritan, and early Evangelical preachers offer: the authors affectionately appeal to preaching examples such as John Chrysostom, John Flavel, and D. Martyn Lloyd Jones – all towards the end of presenting diachronic evidence that exhibits how preaching to the affections is no innovative homiletical method.
The back and forth running banter and repartee between Moody and Weekes in the final four chapters is splendid. More than just laser focused points on how these manuscripts produce compelling responses to the person of Christ, this commentary tackles stylistic idiosyncrasies that preachers will run into on a weekly basis. Should I delve into Intertestamental and Patristic backgrounds with my audience? How do I use speculative reasoning on New Testament narrative without going outside the bounds of reliable exegesis? Can I preach just one verse? How long should my introduction be; what is its function? These and other points are addressed in the final four case studies – making this segment of Burning Hearts of stupendous value.
I’m telling you, if you’re looking for a last minute stocking stuffer to give another pastor, Burning Hearts is a great choice.
Essential — Recommended — Helpful — Pass It By
Burning Hearts, like an arrow to its target, gets right to the heart of whom, how, and to what aim do we preach.