Monday, April 28, 2014

Book Review Ordinary Preacher, Extraordinary Gospel

I dread Monday. Why you may ask? Monday mean that I have to begin preparation for next Sunday's sermon. A whole week prep time you ask? Yes, that is, if you want a well crafted, inspiring, and biblical sermon. In the early years of  parish ministry I used to put off my sermon prep till Thursday or sometimes Friday. I kept telling myself, "Oh, I'll get to that later." Well, later never happened. Phone calls, emails, meetings, and family matters always seemed to get in the way. Friday would come and I'd say, "Yikes, I need a sermon for Sunday." Trust me, it ain't fun trying to come up with creative, well crafted thoughts under pressure. Sermon prep takes time. It takes prayer. It takes quiet reflection and meditation on the Word. It takes some homework and some thoughtful imagination. You cannot do all of this in twenty four hours. Trust me, been there and done that. I have heard of pastors who even waited until early Sunday morning to prepare their sermon, now THAT is really crazy!

Chris Neufeld-Erdman is the senior pastor of the University Presbyterian Church and is also a teacher of spirituality courses at Fresno Pacific University. This book, Ordinary Preacher, Extraordinary Gospel: A Guide for Wise, Empowered Preachers (Cascade Books, 2014) is his latest book.

The book is a collection of a well seasoned pastor, teacher, and preacher. These chapters are not dry academic "theospeak," but enlivened narrative from a man of God who has "been there and done that" thousands of times. He has stood in that pulpit on Sunday morning and preached the good news of salvation. Surely his parishioners love him very much but I also know that they have no idea how much work, struggle, sweat, and tears goes into his preaching. This book is really a one week retreat for seminarians or pastors who want to literally take a week long look at how Chris prepares his sermons. The book literally goes from Monday through Saturday as he explains his regular routine of prayer, reflection, word study, and making connections between the text and life. While reading Ordinary Preacher, Extraordinary Gospel I wish I had it in year two or three in my ministry, I would have put it to good use. I had to learn the hard way. I was also amazed at how similar my own sermon preparation is to what Chris does, maybe good minds think alike!

Chris has a fine writing style and includes two sample sermons in the back of the book for readers to see a sampling of how he crafts his sermons and what they look like. He also includes a short reading list in the end of the book for those who want to read more.

Chris also adds other types of sermon types in the book such as marriage and funeral sermons too. I appreciated them and laughed when he gives the reader a dose of reality when he says that pastors shouldn't worry too much about the wedding sermon because after all no one, not even the preacher is going to upstage the bride! So true. I also agree that pastors need to preach sermons, the good news about Christ at funerals and not deliver eulogies. Eulogies should be left to family members or friends, the pastor's role is to proclaim the resurrection boldly and without shame.

For more information about this book click here