In 2003-2004 I was living in Canterbury, still a student, preaching from time to time at my church, and realising that if I was going to do this a lot, I needed to get far better at it! So when the opportunity arose to attend a year-long conference on preaching, I leapt at the opportunity.
The conference was called Preach the Word and was held at Westminster Chapel, in the heart of London, a city I never imagined I would live in, let alone regularly preach in. Every month a bunch of us would travel up for a day of thought-provoking plenary sessions and seminars, designed to help us grow in the art of preaching.
At the time it felt like quite an investment, saving up scraps from my student loan to attend every month, but it was well worth it. And although many different sources have helped me since, and my preaching is now vastly different from how I imagined it would be back then, in many ways this conference lay the foundation for where I am now. It was an enjoyable year, and I benefitted immeasurably from the time; as much from travelling up with friends and chewing over the material on the train journeys as I did from the sessions themselves.
I still have scratchy notes somewhere and even owned a session or two on cassette until I had the good sense to kill my nostalgia and bin the unusable-little-rectangles. All of the talks were then edited together into a single volume of over 600 pages, which is quite a resource! But to be honest, I never found the book as easy to engage with (which highlights quite nicely the difference between the written and the spoken word!). But I was excited this week to notice that Westminster Chapel is now releasing all the talks as MP3 downloads.
They seem to be uploading one talk a week, working through the voluminous archive. So you may need to check back periodically, if you want to get the whole lot. But these are well worth downloading and listening to.
It’s always hard to give recommendations based on the impact a talk made so many years previously. Sometimes you listen to something again and can’t quite remember why it resonated with you the way it did, but it was just what you needed at a particular point in time! But the standout talks that have stuck with me were by Michael Eaton and David Pawson; in both cases this was the first time I’d come across them and I was wowed by the sense of authority as they taught. There were other great sessions as well – Philip Greenslade, Terry Virgo, Colin Dye, Jeff Lucas, Michael Ramsden, and so on. And I still kick myself that I missed the first month and thus never got to hear John Stott in the flesh!
So, my recommendation? Well, I’m fully expecting Tim Keller’s forthcoming book Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Scepticism to set the new watermark in preaching resources. But since that’s not out for a few more weeks, why not put it on pre-order and then get stuck into these recordings in the meantime! You won’t regret it.
Image: Pulpit Fish-Eye by Charles Clegg, used under CC BY-SA 2.0