Although we have unprecedented means and opportunity to connect with others, our modern communication tends to be quickly, almost thoughtlessly, supplied—a sharp contrast to the letters sent by Paul and other church leaders in the first century. In this collection of sermons, Bill Ireland and Dock Hollingsworth dig into the cultures, struggles, and strengths that shaped the writing and receiving of three such letters. Through critical interpretation, Ireland focuses on how the relationship between pastor and congregation informs the theological and practical advice shared with the church at Philippi and a man named Philemon. Hollingsworth, meanwhile, examines how the Colossians, enthusiastic but new to faith, were affirmed and corrected from afar.
Each volume of the Preaching the Word series consists of a collection of sermons preached through a book or books of the Bible. As in other commentaries, the author analyzes and seeks to interpret each passage. But Preaching the Word also exists as a testament to the Word preached, a homiletical commentary unfolding within a community of faith. Thus, this series allows us to approach the letters and histories of the New Testament as the first recipients did: as hearers of God’s Word.
Too often ministers feel forced to choose preaching resources that fail to strike a balance between serious scholarship and accessible application. Every so often, though, a volume comes along that manages to bring both to bear in ways that neither compromise academic insight nor the real world of congregational life. Bill Ireland and Dock Hollingsworth have compiled such a resource, thoughtfully blending serious biblical study with effective homiletical experience. This is a practical resource from seasoned pastor-scholars who live with an eye toward the well-being of the Church. I am grateful for their gifts that shed new light onto preaching Paul today.
—Dr. Stephen H. Cook
Second Baptist Church, Memphis, TN
Reading these words is like sitting at my kitchen table and drinking coffee with Ireland and Hollingsworth in the late afternoon. Ireland, armed with both Greek language skills and a Mississippi home-grown way of seeing life, writes as if he’s drinking a good cup of dark-roasted coffee and sharing vital insights from the day’s reading. He adds nuggets from his best friends, like Victor Frankl, Frank Stagg, Fred Craddock, and Langdon Gilkey, as well as from a reservoir of popular truth from movies, novels, and current TV shows. Hollingsworth writes as if he just left the golf course. His years of ministry and church leadership mix with his understanding of life and faith as he conveys the insights he’s been mulling over, tee after tee.
Pour a cup of coffee, find an easy chair, and read about the ancient words of someone who appears to be another one of their dear friends—the apostle Paul. It will be fun, and you will learn a great deal, too.
—Linda McKinnish Bridges
Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond