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  • Book Review: Famine in the Land

    Pastoral - June 3, 2020
    Book Review
    by Billy Crow

    One of the best things a pastor can do is to be growing himself.  In my own life, reading has been a great avenue for this.  Of the authors I have read, one of my personal favorites is Steve Lawson.

    Dr. Steven J. Lawson has served in pastoral ministry for 34 years and is the founder and president of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to equip and energize a new generation of Bible expositors. The focus of Dr. Lawson’s ministry is the verse-by-verse exposition of God’s Word.

    He is the author of nineteen books, including The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther, Preaching the Psalms, Pillars of Grace, Foundations of Grace, The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon, The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards, and The Expository Genius of John Calvin. His most recent book is being published with Free Grace Press and is entitled, Root and Fruit: Harmonizing James and Paul on JustificationYou can pre-order here.

    Dr. Lawson is a Teaching Fellow with Ligonier Ministries and Professor of Preaching at The Master’s Seminary. He is also on the board of The Master’s College and Seminary, Ligonier Ministries and serves on the Council and Executive Staff of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. Steve and his wife Anne have three sons and a daughter.


    In his 2003 book Famine in the Land: A Passionate Call for Expository Preaching, Lawson is concerned that what started as a genuine attempt to attract a broader hearing by moving away from Scripture, has grown into a crisis in the church. He understands how important it is to feed God’s people from His Word and is convinced that we must return to expository preaching, “the man of God opening the Word of God and expounding its truths so that the voice of God may be heard, the glory of God seen, and the will of God obeyed.” Lawson calls the church back to Scripture, to restore its commitment to let God’s own words speak.


    Famine in the Land is divided into four sections. In the first, the author writes about the priority of biblical preaching, using verses from Acts 2 as his text. He teaches that God’s church must be done in God’s way in order to thrive and survive in the way the Lord intends. He then goes on to show the priority Jesus and his apostles placed on biblical preaching. The second chapter examines the power of biblical preaching and examines Jonah and his preaching to the city of Nineveh. He teaches that solid preaching needs to be courageous, compelling, confrontational and compassionate in order to conform to the biblical model. The third chapter, which examines the pattern of biblical preaching, looks back to Ezra as he read and explained the Law to the people of Jerusalem. Lawson writes about the necessary preparation for delivering an expository message and provides a call to preachers to become true teachers of the Word. The final chapter looks at Paul’s words to Timothy found in 1 Timothy 4:13-16 and speaks of the passion of biblical preaching. The author shows the pattern of reading, applying and teaching the Word and also speaks of the importance of perseverance in the ministry.


    Lawson writes with a passionate style that grabs the reader with sincerity and one feels the compelling conviction behind his “pen”.   He communicates his familiarity with the history of exposition with many historical quotes and analogies to buttress his case. The book is an excellent outpouring of a pastor’s heart on a very important subject and is more motivational in nature than anything else. If one is looking for a ‘how to preach’ book (meaning mechanics of exegesis and homiletics), this is not the book for you.

    That being said, I also gathered that Lawson wrote his book as if he were “preaching to the choir”, so he seems to assume that his audience already knows how to do exegesis and organize a homiletical outline. He didn’t really define his terms, nor give concrete examples of the bad preaching he was writing against, nor did he really articulate the concrete components to good preaching (exegesis, hermeneutics, etc.).


    Famine in the Land opens with a quote from the great preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones. “The most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and most urgent need in the Church, it is the greatest need of the world also.” Author Steven Lawson continues, “If the doctor’s diagnosis is correct, and this writer believes it is, then a return to preaching – true preaching, biblical preaching, expository preaching – is the greatest need in this critical hour. If a reformation is to come to the church, it must be preceded by a reformation of the pulpit. As the pulpit goes, so goes the church” (page 17). What follows is four chapters which are, appropriately, expository in nature and which examine the priority, power, pattern, and passion of expository preaching.  Its precepts are simple; “Learn the Word, live the Word, preach the Word from the Word.”  Lawson has much to say to pastors today.  It is time for men of God to step to the sacred desk and do our part to end this famine in the land.

    Dr. Billy Crow is the pastor of Brumley Baptist Church. He married his wife Meggin in November of 2002. They have two children, Hannah and Eli.  He was born in Conway in 1979 and graduated from Clinton High School. He attended CBC (Central Baptist College), where he earned an Associate of Arts Pastoral Ministry and a Bachelor of Science Bible/Religious Education.  He received his MDiv (Master of Divinity) from Luther Rice Seminary in 2009 and his Doctor of Ministry in 2015.

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