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Christ-Centered Preaching, 3rd Edition

Redeeming the Expository Sermon

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In this complete guide to expository preaching, Bryan Chapell teaches the basics of preparation, organization, and delivery--the trademarks of great preaching. This new edition of a bestselling resource, now updated and revised throughout, shows how Chapell's case for expository preaching reaches twenty-first-century readers.


Preface to the Third Edition
Part 1: Principles for Expository Preaching
1. Word and Witness
2. Obligations of the Sermon
3. The Priority of the Text
4. Components of Exposition
Part 2: Preparation of Expository Sermons
5. The Process of Explanation
6. Outlining and Structure
7. The Pattern of Illustration
8. The Practice of Application
9. Introductions, Conclusions, and Transitions
Part 3: A Theology of Christ-Centered Messages
10. A Redemptive Approach to Preaching
11. Developing Redemptive Sermons
1. Other Homiletic Forms
2. A Philosophy of Delivery and Dress
3. A Philosophy of Style
4. Methods of Preparation
5. Methods of Presentation
6. Divisions and Proportions
7. Wedding Messages
8. Funeral Messages
9. Evangelistic Messages
10. Understanding and Reaching Contemporary Listeners
11. Reading Scripture
12. Sample Sermon Evaluation Form
13. Example of an Expository Sermon in Formal Structure


"Bryan Chapell's Christ-Centered Preaching was a pathbreaking book in 1994. While some writers had been urging preachers to treat every text within the redemptive flow of biblical history--always culminating in Jesus Christ--this book was the first one to tell us how to do it. Though one of many classic manuals on expository preaching, it has always been the most detailed, analytic, practical, and comprehensive of them all. This third edition has been updated to address current issues and challenges preachers face and includes many new resources, only making this volume more invaluable."

Tim Keller, pastor emeritus, the Redeemer Presbyterian Churches of New York City

"One of my favorite books on preaching just got even better! In this classic text on the foundations for Christ-centered expository preaching, Dr. Chapell serves us in a number of ways. He articulates the essential theological convictions for Christ-centered exposition, and he also walks the reader through the practical process of sermon preparation. As you follow this seasoned pastor and scholar, you will learn to read the Bible with a sensitivity to the character of God who provides redemption and the nature of humanity who needs redemption; to study the text with both a magnifying glass and a wide-angle lens; and to give people real and lasting hope in every sermon. Not only will these insights improve your preaching, but you will also find yourself in moments of worship as you consider the unsearchable riches of Christ's grace."

Tony Merida, pastor for preaching and vision, Imago Dei Church, Raleigh, North Carolina; author of The Christ-Centered Expositor

"'Good, better, best!' That is how I describe editions one, two, and three of Bryan Chapell's Christ-Centered Preaching. The insights, wisdom, prescriptions, and balance that have for decades made this our foundational preaching textbook at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School have been updated, clarified, reinforced, nuanced, and thoroughly documented. Dr. Chapell expertly and seamlessly includes more material throughout. I especially value his reinforcements to those parts of expository preaching that need extra attention just now, namely studying the biblical text itself and preaching Christ without distorting or neglecting how God designed the chosen preaching portion to function. I am eager for my students--and every serious preacher--to read this new edition and let its rich and comprehensive contribution bear lasting fruit in faithful preaching."

Greg R. Scharf, professor of homiletics, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"To a world in need of preachers who proclaim the life-giving message of God's amazing grace found only in Jesus Christ, Bryan Chapell's book Christ-Centered Preaching is a welcome gift. Whether you're just starting out in Bible college or have been in the pulpit for many years, this seminal book must be within arm's reach so that it can help you grow in your preaching ministry. I know that my teaching and preaching ministry would not exist without the help of Bryan Chapell and Christ-Centered Preaching. May we all heed his wise words to honor God's word and preach His grace as we center all of our sermons on Jesus Christ."

Julius J. Kim, dean of students and professor of practical theology, Westminster Seminary California; author of Preaching the Whole Counsel of God: Design and Deliver Gospel-Centered Preaching

"When Bryan Chapell first gave us Christ-Centered Preaching back in 1994, he forged a pathway for us to think rightly about the subject and to practice it faithfully. In the latest installment of a preaching classic, this creative and masterful writer and preacher seasons his expertise with even more of his rich pastoral insight and experience. He reminds us that preaching the text of Scripture naturally implies the responsibility to preach Christ, and he demonstrates how to engage contemporary audiences in such preaching. Even if you've read a previous edition of this critical work, don't fail to get this fresh edition and glean from its present-day application. This book is a necessary resource for all who feel the weight of and embrace the privilege of exalting Jesus through biblical preaching."

Jim Shaddix, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

"Christ-Centered Preaching is a huge, all-important book. I never teach my way through it without realizing how much it has to say. . . . Chapell's book is too vast to master, but to miss considering it is like willfully ignoring the Pacific while claiming to be an oceanographer."

Calvin Miller, author of Preaching: The Art of Narrative Exposition

Praise for Previous Editions

"This is an outstanding book that will be of interest to anyone committed to biblical preaching. Chapell has provided a solid yet contemporary approach to expository preaching, something that is much needed in today's congregations. I share with him the belief that contemporary congregations are open to expository preaching models provided they are done well and with an emphasis on practical application. Chapell offers exactly such a model, and I recommend it with enthusiasm. In fact, I plan to use this material when I teach expository preaching."

Michael Duduit, editor, Preaching

"I am favorably impressed: The layout is logical, the outlines are clear, and the understanding of communication is shrewd. I especially like the theology and applicatory concern that shine through it all. Preaching that conforms to the pattern set here will certainly be edifying, and the techniques proposed could sustain over many years an expository ministry that would not at any stage be found wearisome. I would expect this book to establish itself as a reliable guide noted for good Christian sense."

†J. I. Packer, professor emeritus of theology, Regent College

"Christ-Centered Preaching is a thoughtful, balanced, and helpful guide to what expository preaching in the Reformed tradition has been, can be, and needs to be again. Any seminarian or preacher, however long in the ministry, can profit from what is found in these pages."

James M. Boice, former pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia (deceased)

"This is a great book. Christ-Centered Preaching will make a difference to generations of seminary students and to generations of Christians who will hear them preach. Christ is the message of preachers, and this book will enable preachers to lift him up in ways that will change lives. Clear, concise, and relevant, this is a book that will revitalize what happens in the pulpit. Use it. It will make a difference."

Steve Brown, professor of preaching, Reformed Theological Seminary

"This is an outstanding tool for students of homiletics. It is the best I have seen on this subject. The book crystallizes the essence of expository preaching and presents clear, transferable principles for preaching effectively. The book itself is structured in a lucid, readable format."

R. C. Sproul, founder and chairman, Ligonier Ministries

"I am sure this book is destined to be a classic. The nature of the content included, the form and structure in which it is presented, the clear and concise illustrative material, the practical application of the principles delineated, and the consistent focus on the subject without digression (namely, Christ-centered preaching) all combine to make this a most helpful work. Rather than frustrating, the 'precept upon precept, line upon line' approach motivates, challenges, and creates a high level of anticipation. That is the stuff of which good textbooks are made. I believe this book will prove its worth by cutting across theological and denominational lines. Whatever their ecclesiastical leaning or spiritual persuasion, preachers will better communicate it having implemented the suggestions of this book."

Wilson Benton, pastor, Kirk of the Hills Presbyterian Church

"This book has a clarity of purpose and pertinent illustrations and applications. The author is obviously well acquainted with the substantial literature on the subject of preaching and effectively uses that knowledge to support ministry centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ. May the book be used for the Lord's glory and the edification of his people."

Hudson Armerding, former president of Wheaton College

"This book offers an interesting new approach, placing emphasis on one's fallen condition and Christ's redemptive answer as the basis for preaching. There is much that is not only suggestive but also helpful. I believe this book will do much good. The author writes clearly and well."

Jay E. Adams, founder, Institute for Nouthetic Studies

"I am thankful for a book that at last combines both the basic structure of preaching with a sound biblical reason for preaching. I have taught homiletics for ten years in two different institutions. It has always been a problem for me that available preaching texts were either strong on theology or strong on technique. I have been unable to find one that brings both together as this textbook does. My own philosophy of preaching is that when the congregants leave the sanctuary, they should be focused on Christ and not on themselves. Christ-Centered Preaching is going to make a great difference in that direction."

Paul Kooistra, coordinator, Mission to the World

"I must say I am very pleased. I am strongly supportive of Chapell's main thesis."

Al Mawhinney, former faculty dean and professor of New Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary

"Christ-Centered Preaching will be of real use to the church and its preachers. This book is obviously the fruit of wisdom gained from preaching, from thinking about preaching, and from thinking about teaching others to preach. It combines practical and realistic guidance on the basics with a theological depth and sensitivity to the ways in which Christ the Redeemer has met the needs of our fallen condition."

Dennis Johnson, academic dean and professor of practical theology, Westminster Theological Seminary

"I am deeply moved by the devotional spirit of this book on preaching. I picked it up expecting to hone my preaching techniques and found myself learning to read my entire Bible as a testimony to Christ's redeeming work. I went looking for preaching suggestions and found in the expert advice refreshment for my heart. Praise God for a preaching textbook so full of grace."

Daniel Dermyer, pastor/teacher, Kansas City

"Chapell is aware not only of current studies in each of the subjects discussed but also of the history of preaching, communications, and theology. He has organized his material well, beginning with principles of preaching--on the basis of which he shows how to prepare a sermon---and concluding with a heavy emphasis on making sermons Christ-centered. By including chapters on biblical theology, Chapell has enriched the study of homiletics so that Christ-centered thinking becomes an integral part of sermon preparation. The questions and exercises at the end of each chapter are very useful in clarifying the material that precedes them. In addition, they powerfully illustrate the method Chapell prescribes for sermonizing by requiring a thoughtful rethinking of the matter and by making the content of each chapter concrete."

John Sanderson, professor emeritus of biblical theology and homiletics, Covenant Theological Seminary (deceased)

"This is a very good book, in fact, one I wish I had written myself. I trust it will find wide use in evangelical seminaries and Bible colleges."

William L. Hogan, former professor emeritus of preaching, Reformed Theological Seminary

"The strong technical and philosophical underpinnings behind Christ-Centered Preaching are wonderfully illumined by its high degree of readability. There is a great need for this book. A tremendous number of books on preaching deal only with technique, and what is seriously lacking is one that deals with preaching as it pertains to exposition. I plan to use this book in my exegetical models course."

Mike Glodo, stated clerk of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church

"This is one of the most helpful books I have ever read. It is a great contribution to preachers, and I feel as if I received a seminary education in reading it."

Kerry James Allen, pastor of Fox River Baptist Church, Illinois

"The entire book is outstanding, but at the risk of seeming to downplay the first part of the book, I want to tell you that the last two chapters are more than worth the price. Those chapters ought to be required reading for every pastor, not to mention every Navigator and Campus Crusade staff worker in America."

Jerry Bridges, author of The Pursuit of Holiness

"Chapell's book is so good that it has caused an immediate effect. My congregation will thank him. This week's sermon is already altered, and I have been reminded of some things I had long forgotten. I will commend it to others every chance I get."

David W. Hall, pastor of Midway Presbyterian Church, Georgia

"Without question, this book is worthy of Book of the Year or perhaps Book of the Century."

Marvin D. Kleinau, associate professor emeritus of speech communication, Southern Illinois University

"I have read dozens of books on preaching. The best book I have read is Bryan Chapell's Christ-Centered Preaching."

James R. Tozer, retired pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church, Indiana

The Author

  1. Bryan Chapell
    © Jay Fram

    Bryan Chapell

    Bryan Chapell, PhD, is president of Unlimited Grace Media, daily broadcasting grace-filled messages in most major US markets and streaming preaching instruction in 1,500 cities in 90+ nations with 150,000 email subscribers. He also leads the Administrative...

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Praise for Previous Editions

One of the 25 Most Influential Preaching Books of the Past 25 Years, Preaching Magazine (2010)

"One rarely finds a book that truly advances the theory and practice of expository preaching. . . . Bryan Chapell's book, Christ-Centered Preaching, is a refreshing exception to this trend. . . . The book deserves a place on the list of required reading for anyone interested in homiletics. Christ-Centered Preaching is valuable because it is a first-rate handbook on the mechanics of expository preaching. The real contribution of Christ-Centered Preaching, however, is revealed in its title. Chapell's aim is not merely homiletical; it is ultimately theological. . . . Chapell's approach is rooted in the Reformation assumption that Jesus Christ is at the heart of all that is written in the Bible, a view that Jesus himself shared. I hope it will be used to train those who fill the church's pulpits for many years to come."

John Koessler,


"Dr. Chapell leads the pack as both a homiltetician and preacher."

Keith Willhite,


"Preaching magazine named Christ-Centered Preaching the 1994 'Book of the Year.' It could easily have won 'Book of the Decade.' Chapell understands and applies communication strategies that take preachers beyond mere explanation of the Word. This book will be in the classrooms and on the desks of preachers for years to come."

Timothy S. Warren,

Bibliotheca Sacra

"Chapell covers a variety of aspects of expository preaching but focuses on the preparation of such sermons, leading the reader through the process from exegesis to outlining, to delivery. It is consistently helpful and clear in this. Especially useful is the focus on the application of a passage determining the construction of the sermon. . . . An excellent introduction to expository preaching."

Graham Beynon,


"If you've ever had the experience of struggling to put a sermon together and wondered just what it was that escaped your attention in the handful of lectures on preaching you had at theological college or on your training course, then this book may be for you. . . . It is well-written, systematically laid out and will more than repay the effort put into it. . . . It is by a long shot the best and most stimulating book I have read on the subject. . . . [Chapell's] book arises out of his experience of teaching seminarians how to preach. It is both clear and comprehensive. . . . Throughout the book, one feels close to a godly man with a clear mind and a sensibly balanced approach. You don't have to agree with everything he says in order to gain a great deal from this treasure chest of experience, insights and techniques. . . . The only downside to this book for me is a sense of frustration at not having had this man train me to preach. I have benefited hugely from the book. . . . Preaching itself feels easier and more rewarding. Why not give yourself and your congregation a chance. It's worth it!"

Julian Raffay,

The Preacher

"[This book] leads the reader through a course in preaching. . . . Questions challenge the reader at the end of each chapter. Twelve appendices full of practical information and suggestions complete the book. . . . Chapell's seminary students sit at the feet of a master preacher. They have a wonderful opportunity to learn from one who has made life-long commitment to good preaching. Others may not have the privilege of sitting in the classroom of this able instructor, but the next best thing is available. Buy the book and harvest the insight that springs from the fertile soil of a committed preacher who delights in bringing the truths of Scripture to students, the church, and the world."

William H. Kooienga,

Christian Renewal

"A beneficial sourcebook of ideas for methods, structures, and resources for preaching Christ in expository sermons."

Paul J. Cain,

Liturgy, Hymnody, and Pulpit

"This significant book . . . will be extremely helpful to many preachers and students of preaching. This book is written carefully and clearly, formatted helpfully, and is comprehensive in scope. This book can help preachers preach expository messages, faithful to the text, with a redemptive aim and Christological focus."

"This is a classic seminary book, but one I find that I go back to years afterward and from which I continue to learn."--Robert Nay, The Army Chaplaincy

David Olford,

The Preacher

"Twenty years ago, in connection with some graduate studies, I reviewed the many hundreds of biblically oriented homiletics texts produced in the previous 175 years and found 90% of them to be repetitive and mundane. Of course some of the 'classics' stood out as fresh and highly significant. . . . Christ-Centered Preaching may well be destined to join the illustrious ranks. Bryan Chapell has now tackled the virus that robs so much contemporary preaching of its virility and dulls its confrontational character. This innovative discussion of the authority and redemptive power of the Scriptures when exposed uses all the insights gleaned from contemporary studies in communications dynamics. . . . The centrality of this idea to the whole of Chapell's volume, and its position as integral to everything from introductions to conclusions--along with his attention to transitions, structures, applications, illustrations, and presentations--makes this volume not only contemporary but also unique and will assure its influence for many years. I found the work to be scholarly in its research base, balanced in its argument, succinct and focused in its presentation, creative in its emphases, seminal in its potential, and also delivered with some panache, a vivacity uncommon enough in preaching volumes to be itself quite remarkable. This book is simply a 'must' for every student and pastor."

Craig Skinner,


"Any practicing preacher or theological student will find challenging and very helpful material [in this book]. . . . A distinct and valuable contribution to the homiletical scene. All in all, a fine publication, from which even seasoned preachers will profit, let alone beginners."

Vox Reformata

"One of the key homiletics textbooks in college and seminary classes. That has given Chapell a significant influence in the training of future preachers."

Michael Duduit,


"Several things about this book demand its attention by preachers, particularly in our circles. It combines emphasis on expository preaching within the reformed tradition, focusing, as the title suggests, on Christ-centered preaching; yet, the author offers some new and fresh thoughts in that area. For example, the chapters on illustration and application are worth the price of the book. Preachers will be stretched, challenged, and shown how to preach the Word more faithfully and effectively."

Charles Dunahoo,

Equip for Ministry

"All teachers, not to mention preachers, should read this. . . . [It] should become a standard."

Marvin Padgett,


"Excellent blend of practical and theoretical guidance for the preparation of expository sermons. . . . But more importantly, and in a way which I have not seen elsewhere, Chapell addressed the need for a 'redemptive' approach to preaching. . . . Careful study and implementation of this book may revolutionize your preaching! Highly recommended."

J. Robert Vannoy,

BTS BookList

"If there is one book about preaching that should be on your reading list this year, this is the one. I say that for a variety of reasons. For one, here is a book that is clearly written, well illustrated, complete with questions and exercises. In other words, an excellent text for those preparing for the ministry and a great refresher for those already in ministry. For another, here is a book that gives wise counsel and necessary instruction on the principles and preparation of expository sermons. Then too, here is a book that seeks to help preachers preach Christ-centered messages. In conclusion, here is a book that should be read and reread by every preacher of the Word. It will help you greatly as you seek, with God's help, to meet the challenges of preaching."

James Visscher,

Ordained Servant

"This is one of the five best contemporary books on preaching in print. A must for every preacher who would handle Scripture in a proper manner."

John Armstrong,

Reformation and Revival

"Chapell brings his wealth of pastoral preaching and homiletical instruction into a well-crafted volume. . . . Those committed to proclaiming God's Word will find Chapell's volume accessible, resourceful, and useful. I'd recommend it for Bible colleges, seminaries, pastoral internships, or pastors' studies. . . . I heartily commend Christ-Centered Preaching as a superb tool for preachers--experienced or inexperienced--for its guidance to faithfully preach Christ in all of Scripture."

Phil Newton,

9Marks blog

"This is a classic seminary book, but one I find that I go back to years afterward and from which I continue to learn."

Robert Nay,

The Army Chaplaincy