REVIEWED BY CLINT ARCHER
Alex Montoya has been the senior pastor at First Fundamental Bible Church in California, since 1972. His training includes a Bachelor’s degree in Latin American History from Biola University, Master in Divinity and Master in Theology degrees from Talbot Theological Seminary. In 2008 he was awarded the honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from the Master’s Seminary, where he is the Associate Professor of Pastoral Ministries. He preaches weekly on the Word of Truth radio program. In 1975, Pastor Montoya founded the Seminario Biblico Fundamental, which prepares Spanish-speaking men for the Gospel ministry. He is also author of Hispanic Ministry in North America (Zondervan, 1987).
SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
The need for Preaching with Passion is purported in the introduction: The problem with a lot of preaching today is “neither the content of the sermon nor the methodology; rather, the problem lies with our delivery of the sermon. The problem is not what we say; it is how we say it. Our sermons lack passion,” (10). And “The crowd is not just fickle, it is also apathetic, listless, lifeless and wetted down with the materialistic dew of the day. Such people need preaching that connects with them, preaching that can awaken them from a spiritual stupor. Such people need passionate preaching,” (10).
Many preachers err on the side of eloquently preaching without solid content, but just as many focus on content at the expense of delivery with passion and conviction. It is this latter group Montoya addresses in the book. “The conservative, biblical preacher has to be most aware of the balance between solid exposition and the passionate delivery of that exposition.” (p. 11)
He teaches that passion is not just something you are either born with or without, but can be fostered and learned in any preacher. The book is his attempt at giving practical guidelines on how to preach more passionately, as well as a biblical defense of the need for earnestness in preaching.
Each of the eight chapters explains unpacks the elements necessary for an improvement of one’s delivery and an injection of passion into the preacher. Namely, preach with… Spiritual power, Conviction, Compassion, Authority, Urgency, Brokenness, The Whole Being, and Imagination. Each chapter defines and unfolds the needed quality, complete with ample biblical evidence that it is not a matter of the author’s opinion, and liberally fortified by quotes from great preachers of the past and present who agree with the thesis of each chapter.
Of all the chapters, the one most striking in its application and poignancy of style is chapter 3, “Preaching with Compassion” (53-69). The closing paragraphs under the heading “Reality Check” paint a very practical and powerful picture of how one can kindle compassion for people in one’s soul. In this illustration, Montoya talks about a typical trip to a taco stand in East LA where he simply observes those coming in, and imagines the circumstances of their impoverished lives, until “Now I am fit to ascend the pulpit, to weep with those who weep…until the tears pour forth from my melted heart,” (69).
Another reviewer recognized the gem of this chapter. Author Gary Gilley writes of this chapter in his review,
Without question, in my opinion, his chapter on preaching with compassion is the high water mark of the book. The best preachers are not just wordsmiths; they are men who speak for God from broken hearts. They preach to the sinner, the wounded, the dying, the lost and the hurting. And the minute they forget this fact a great measure of power is lost from their sermons. I have personally known some wonderful preachers that had no real heart and concern for their people – they just loved to preach. Mercifully such men usually don’t last long in the ministry. Montoya’s chapter on this subject could be (perhaps should be) read on a regular basis by pastors – just to remind them of the great needs among our people so that we preach with true compassion.
Nathan Busenitz’s review sums up the singular lesson that can be gleaned from the book, “If we could boil the book down to one principle that stands out above the rest, I believe it would be this; The Word of God must do its work in your own heart before it can do its work through you in the hearts of your people.” I believe this is the heart of the books content, as evidenced by the many different ways Montoya underscores the importance of being gripped by a truth as prerequisite for communicating that truth passionately. Here are some examples of this principle in the book: “The secret to passionate preaching is spiritual power,” (21). “Passionate preaching almost always comes from a man who holds the truth he proclaims with deep personal convictions,” (41) “The mistake made by many young preachers is that they attempt to mimic the style of great, older preachers, but they fail to mimic their lives as well,” (81).
Montoya takes a view of passion in preaching that is rare, namely it can be worked on and improved with effort. Most people tend to think passion is an inherent quality that is either there or lacking in a preacher, with not much hope of acquiring it. But Montoya debunks this. He points out that preaching should be viewed—in this limited sense—as any other profession, in that it can be mastered with practice and training: “Have you noticed that all other professions take training and practice to bring about excellence, especially those that involve the use of words to address an audience…Is the preacher nay different? Why do we not print a manuscript of our sermon and then practice it? Why do we not seek to better our preaching by a conscious effort?” (147).
Montoya debunks the mystical teaching on unction in no uncertain terms (31-33). But then he affirms the same type of notion concerning the call to the ministry. In places the overstatement of his view opens Montoya up to criticism for those who may misunderstand the point. One example is in Gary Gilley’s attack in his review of the book. This misunderstanding could have been averted by more careful language. Gilley states,
He encourages them to preach only that which stirs their hearts. To preach almost exclusively the great theological themes that invite passion. And yet while he claims to believe in expository preaching (p. 151), he admits that the expositor preacher is at a great disadvantage here (pp. 46ff). The topical preacher can chose his themes according to the need of the moment or that which is currently stirring the heart of the preacher. But the expository preacher systematically preaches through a passage of Scripture – which sometimes is not foremost on his mind. Does that mean we should skip these themes in order to be passionate? …A few other statements were troubling as well. For example, the concept that individuals will go to hell if we lack urgency in our preaching (p. 97). … Then concerning the authority of our preaching he writes, “Nothing can equal the words, ‘I know it is true it happened to me!’” (p. 76). This is pure liberal subjectivism…
I believe Gilley’s review is too harsh a statement, and seems to ignore the wider context in which these statements find themselves. The book is a very practical, helpful guide to an area of delivery which is largely neglected. Most preachers would agree that passion is necessary or at least ideal in a sermon, but Montoya goes further to give real advice on how to add passion to one’s preaching. If I had to boil the content and value of the book to one sentence it would be this: “To be a more passionate preacher, you need to tap into the passion you have for other areas of your life, and then use your mind to think this way about the text you are preaching, and your body to emphasize it, and your voice to communicate it.” This is covered in the chapter “Preaching with the Whole Being,” (115-27). Though this is easier said than done, Preaching With Passion goes a long way in showing one how to actually do it.
 Gary Gilley, “A Review of Preaching with Passion,” http://www.svchapel.org/resources/book-reviews/17-ministry/370-preaching-with-passion-by-alex-montoya (accessed 2 November, 2010).
 Nathan Busenitz, “A Review of Preaching with Passion,” http://www.sfpulpit.com/2008/04/04/preaching-with-passion/ (accessed 2 November, 2010).
 Gary Gilley, “A Review of Preaching with Passion,” http://www.svchapel.org/resources/book-reviews/17-ministry/370-preaching-with-passion-by-alex-montoya (accessed 3 November, 2010).