Book review for Donald Sunukjian’s Biblical Preaching for the Contemporary Church

Review by Demetrius Rogers, Th.M.

The Biblical Preaching for the Contemporary Church series offers Invitation to the Life of Jacob: Winning through Losing, Invitation to Philippians: Building a Great Church through Humility, and Invitation to James: Preserving through Trials to Win the Crown (all  by Donald R. Sunukjian, Weaver Book Company, 2014).

The three main components of biblical exposition are explanation, illustration, and application. Preachers are to explain the text to uncover its meaning, illustrate the text to place it in fresh light, and apply it to bring out its relevance. And while many expository sermons contain great explanation, they can sometimes fail to connect with the concerns of people. Good explanation in the pulpit deserves to be dressed and fitted for the concerns of everyday life. In theory, most would agree to this, but may wonder how to accomplish it without a good example. The Weaver Book Company has partnered with Donald Sunukjian to publish three volumes of sermons that speak to exactly this. If you’re looking to see how these three components can work well together in the art of preaching this series is a wonderful place to start.Invitation to Philippians: Building a Great Church through Humility (Biblical Preaching for the Contemporary Church) book cover

In each of the three volumes Dr. Sunukjian has compiled, for his reader, complete sets of sermons based on the life of Jacob, the epistle to the Philippians, and the epistle of James. The table of contents reveals how he divides the text and entitles each sermon. In the Introduction to each volume the reader may find a helpful overview and numerous insights into Sunukjian’s approach to each section of material. And the remainder of each volume sets forth his sermon series (14-15 each), with scriptural references on the top of each page for quick referencing.

As was mentioned, not only does Sunukjian do a good job of explaining the passage, but he also illustrates the text, and applies it in equal measure. Whether it be object lessons, props, or gestures Sunukjian interjects them into each sermon with parenthetical notation. Sometimes he will even preface a sermon with the style of presentation he assumes. For instance, in one of his Philippians sermons he enacts a roll-playing presentation, dressed as a Roman guard. Fresh creativity seems to abound in each sermon. And application points are woven throughout the fabric of the entire work. Sometimes there is temptation to frontload sermons with explanation and then conclude with application points. However, Sunukjian shows that sermons can be made practical from the very outset.

Although this set would particularly make a great resource for pastors, it should also be noted that it would make for fine devotional reading for all kinds of people as well. The sermons are loaded with content, but do not come across formal or stolid. Rather they exude warmth, even playfulness, and are conversational in tone and manner. For preacher and parishioner alike, this set offers fresh appreciation for the giving and receiving of biblical sermons. Additional volumes on Joshua, Mark, and Galatians are forthcoming.

 Demetrius earned his Master of Theology at Western Seminary and currently serves as the Director of Admissions and Online Instructor for Western Seminary.