Preacher keep yourself from idols (book review)

By Derek Tidball
IVP. 208 pages. £8.99
ISBN 978 1 844 744 961

What a pleasure to read such an insightful treatment on the perils of preaching! The author has brought together in 12 chapters many of the pitfalls preachers face. He offers both warnings and reminders to all in pastoral ministry as to the dangers of idolatry that are part of the office.

Four main areas are covered: the idols of self, of the age, of the task, and of the ministry. The intriguing title is taken from 1 John 5.21 and applied to those who preach.

The author writes in a personal, accessible style. His material is adapted from lectures on the subject of preaching given at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, USA. Speaking to theological students who are preparing for ministry has given him the opportunity to speak frankly and be readily understood. This only adds to the helpfulness of the book.

As to his method, the author sets out a particular area of idolatry and then offers constructive solutions and suggestions as to what can be done to avoid the problem. This has the effect of not only making the reader aware of possible dangers, but also providing some direction as to how such a problem should be solved. These suggestions, based on the experience of the author as well as quotations from many others who have written on the subject of preaching, are especially useful.

Those involved in pastoral ministry will find this book to be particularly apt because of its timely reminders. And, although it doesn’t cover every aspect of the pitfalls of preaching, it does cover a good number. The temptations of envy and pride, for example, are not part of the list, as the author candidly admits in his epilogue.

On the whole, there is very little in the book that this reviewer could disagree with. It is a collection of valuable insights provided by one who has experience in ministry and in the training of ministers. If you are in church leadership, you may want to read this book to better understand some of the particular dangers that your pastor faces. As a member of the congregation, you might like to purchase the book to help you pray more effectively for the man who occupies your pulpit from week to week.

Rick Battenfield, 
minister, Eythorne Baptist Church, Eythorne, near Dover, Kent