Film and Book Reviews

A welcome preaching guide, distinctively Australian

BookPreaching with an Accent: Biblical genres for Australian congregations, edited by Ian Hussey (Morling Press, 2019)

By Bishop Paul Barker

April 27 2020One of the great dangers of being in lockdown is being spoilt for choice hearing people preach across the globe. Let me explain. There are many great preachers in North America and the UK, especially, who are esteemed in our respective church circles and traditions. Many of these preachers are almost gurus, heroes of the faith, and we are often drawn to soak up their every preached word. I have certainly learned much from several. 

The danger, though, is that the best preacher to listen to is my own priest or pastor. She or he may not be the most eloquent, most humorous, or insightful with regard to the text. She or he may nor stir up the most passion or draw the greater crowds, views or hits in person or online. But because she or he is my pastor, she or he preaches to me, my community, my church, my culture. And crucially, she or he loves me, my community, my church, my culture. I don’t live in New York, Seattle or London. So the best preaching for me will be local. 

So it is welcome and refreshing to read a book on preaching that addresses Australians. There have been others, but another one is always welcome. This multi-denominational book, with contributors who are Baptists, Presbyterians, from the Reformed Church as well as Anglicans, is published by Morling College, the Baptist College in Sydney. It is evangelical in approach but stimulating for any preacher. Anglican contributors are Mike Raiter (Melbourne), Bill Salier and Tim Patrick. 

There are dozens of books that address preaching the different genres of scripture, narrative, law prophecy, poetry, epistle and so on. What makes this book distinctive is its attempt to engage with and apply to Australian culture.  

The first chapter by Ian Hussey addresses distinctives of Australian culture, including its secular nature, egalitarianism, individualism, orientation to rules, attitudes to the environment, power and time, not least being time poor. This analysis was interesting, based on research by Nardon and Steers (2006). My biggest disappointment though with the book overall was much of it assumed the monochrome nature of Australian culture. Mike Raiter’s chapter was a good exception, dealing in more depth with the multicultural nature of Australian society, not least the huge numbers of Asian residents and students. So an Asian view of society and power is much more respectful and hierarchical than those of a white Anglo-Saxon heritage. Good preaching will address the sub-cultures within a congregation and not assume everyone is the same. 

Notwithstanding this, I was helped greatly by the emphasis on application, addressing culture, throughout the book. As an itinerant preacher, I find application in my preaching to be too shallow and general. The engagement with some key cultural values in Australian society has given me cause to reflect more on my own preaching and attempt to sharpen its application, a valuable thing. 

For those tempted to channel hop for great preaching around the globe, beware. Your greatest need, not least in time of lockdown and social distancing, is to be with your own congregation being fed, challenged and comforted by your own vicar or pastor who knows you and loves you. And for those of you who do preach, do not be discouraged. This helpful book will refresh and challenge you again to preach that powerful word of God, the double-edged sword that pierces to the core of our being.   

Bishop Paul Barker has oversight of the Jumbunna Episcopate. He spent several years overseas training preachers in Asia.