Edited by Craig Brian Larson
Published by: Hendrickson
Traditionally, Baptists have placed great emphasis on preaching the Word within the context of corporate worship. In turn, this can place pressure on the preacher to produce sermons that are original, insightful, useful, challenging, comforting – and a host of other adjectives too – on a weekly basis. In the past, the old Limerick may have held true:
There was a young Baptist called ‘Spurgey’
Who didn’t like our liturgy.
His sermons were fine.
I made some of them mine –
And so did the rest of the clergy!
Plagiarising others’ work and not being found out is harder in today’s digital age, so this book – 30 contributions from eminent speakers, preachers and teachers – offers tried and tested tips and techniques (rather than content) for sermon success.
The first half of the book provides perspectives on ‘preparing your heart and honing your skills’. The latter part of the book contains interviews with 15 preachers on ‘how I prepare a sermon’, offering important insights into each individual’s sermon preparation process. These insights’ main value is in stressing the length of time and degree of dedication needed to study the Scriptures, along with amplifying material, in order to distil the relevant wisdom that God’s word contains.
The first part of this book contains a wealth of practical advice and guidance – covering not just the ‘how to’ (such as ‘five hammer strokes for creating expository sermon outlines’) but also the ‘what’ (‘liking the lectionary’) and, importantly, the ‘why’ (‘Facebook sermon prep’).
The extemporaneous and the script-based approach to sermon preparation and delivery are examined, as is writing more than one sermon a week. There’s an essay on the value of teamwork in preparing and critiquing sermons. There’s even a chapter on preparing mentally to preach, likening preachers to other performance artists.
As someone who not only composes and delivers sermons but also listens to others’ sermons regularly, it’s easy to see the need for a book such as this. As in every walk of life, fashions come and go. Yet certain precepts and techniques always have – and will always – mark out the successful preacher. This book attempts to identify at least some of them. As such, it should be a valuable addition to any preacher’s library.
By Bob Little
[This review was first published in The Baptist Ministers’ Journal, July 2013]