Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Book Review Preaching that Matters

I enjoy reading a variety of books; fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and memoir. Recently I have been reading some non-fiction books especially some books on Scripture and Preaching. Even though I have been a pastor for nearly fourteen years I always like to improve my skills and be reminded of "the basics" like preaching, teaching, and pastoral care.

I recently came across a great book by Lori J. Carrell called Preaching That Matters: Reflective Practices for Transforming Sermons (Hendon, VA: Alban Publishing, 2013). Carrell is a professor of communication and the director of the Center for the Excellence in Teaching and Learning at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Her expertise in communication, rhetoric, and public speaking provides her with the resources and experience to write such a great book. This is more than a book however, it is a resource and workbook which the reader will hopefully return to again and again throughout ones ministry.

Lori must be a wonderful teacher because her sense of humor, honesty, and truth comes out in her writing and surely in the classroom too. Even the chapter titles are creative: Transforming, Not Informing; Exegeting Then Organizing; and Delivering Not Decorating are a few of them.

Preaching That Matters includes wonderful questions for small group discussion and journaling. Actually, Alban Publishing included space to write in the book but I have a handy spiral bound notebook in which I wrote down notes and extended thoughts on each chapter. I will certainly go back again and do a more thorough job reflecting on my own preaching habits (good and bad!!), style, and delivery. Each chapter deals with one of these issues and she provides real anecdotes from participants in her workshops and conferences.

Preaching That Matters is certainly not a theory book or a "how to" book on preaching or merely a collection of stories about preaching but a book that engages the pastor as they engage the Word of God each week. Preparing a weekly sermon that is authentic, inspirational, unique, and Biblical is not an easy task. I vividly remember the several really long dry spells that I had in my own ministry and the difficulty it was to muster the energy to face my congregation each week and proclaim the Good News even though I was spiritually in the dumps so to speak. But preach I did and preach I have been doing for a long time.

One of Lori's main themes which is woven throughout the book is that preaching is for the transformation of people. All too often preaching because like dry dust, a mere exegetical exercise (which maybe appropriate for example in an Adult Bible study context) but not for the pulpit. People come each Sunday to hear the Good News and to be reminded that they are loved by God and that life does matter in a world of darkness, death, and despair. They come to be consoled, comforted, and encouraged on their walk of faith, not to be bombarded with theological jargon and interesting but trite historical minutae from ages ago. They want to hear good Biblical preaching, they want to hear about Jesus and his ministry and how our life can be changed today in the 21st Century Church.

I recommend this book for preachers everywhere who want to improve their homilies. I know that I will return to the questions in each chapter and re-think how I create and deliver my own sermons. There is always room for improvement!

For more information about Preaching That Matters click here