Sydney: Matthias Media, 2019
Ten essayists have put together this most engaging tribute to the preaching, pastoring, and evangelistic work of Simon Manchester, who served as the senior minister at St Thomas’ Church, North Sydney for thirty years (1989-2019). If we were unaware, we are told early on that ‘Simon is in his element around a table of 15-20 people, leading them through different parts of the Gospel of Mark, and showing the majesty and mercy of Jesus.’
Collections of essays can differ in quality, but this one has a lot of stimulating material. Dick Lucas defends Paul as the author of 2 Timothy, contrary to received wisdom in liberal circles. Chase Kuhn points out that ‘big picture’ preaching need not be reductionistic and inappropriately textual. William Philip reminds us of a Reformation principle that Karl Barth mangled when he points out that in true preaching, we do not just hear about Christ, but Christ Himself preaches (Rom.10:14; Eph.2:17). The emphasis on repentance as a necessary part of the gospel proclamation is welcome. David Robertson is helpful in pointing out that ‘In evangelism there are three main areas of activity. Breaking up the ground, sowing the seed and reaping the harvest.’
Not all of the points made are equally convincing. Philip argues against Robert Murray McCheyne’s view that our hearers’ greatest need is our holiness, and asserts that what they need to see is our humanity and weakness. Perhaps too much of an either/or argument has been presented here. In this year of the death of J. I. Packer, it is appropriate to be reminded of his graphic description of John Owen’s literary style as possessing ‘a certain, clumsy dignity’, followed by the crushing addendum, ‘so has Stonehenge’. Read Owen out aloud, was Packer’s sage advice.
This is a worthy tribute to a distinguished yet humble preacher, pastor and evangelist. It will surely help many as they seek to be more effective in their pastoral callings.
Peter Barnes is the editor of AP and pastor at Revesby Presbyterian Church NSW.