Review: Inside the Sermon: Thirteen Preachers Discuss Their Methods of Preparing Messages

Inside the Sermon: Thirteen Preachers Discuss Their Methods of Preparing Messages
Inside the Sermon: Thirteen Preachers Discuss Their Methods of Preparing Messages by Richard Allen Bodey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An excellent idea – have a group of well-known preachers come together and briefly share their homiletic methodologies, followed by one of their sermons as an example. The quality is as varied as the authors themselves, but Packer, Ferguson, Baxter, Kaiser, and Clowney all do excellent work, making this volume worthwhile.
Recurrent themes include the necessity of eye contact, the wisdom of writing a manuscript and then not depending on it, rooting the message in the text, drawing sermon ideas from everywhere, and the need for pointed application. Things I would have liked to see discussed that weren’t there in abundance: how a congregation can be read so as to determine their needs, how to select the target audience (level of education, believer/unbeliever, etc.), whether an important textual implication that is not the passage’s “main point” can ever be the point of a sermon.
Lessons learned: How to let an illustration eat the message while making a different point from the text anyway – Leighton Ford. How to write a sermon the night before that includes five pages of introductory building up of the problem, and then inserting a closing paragraph that jumps out at the audience and startles them with an under-explained solution – Beecher Hicks. How to psychologize your flock with motivational platitudes and a Jonathan Livingston Seagull reference, plus as an added bonus, information as to what is on the pastor’s desk (okay, I’ll tell you. A cross and a discus thrower. The discus thrower alerts the preacher to his responsibility for self-mastery) – John Huffman.
But there are much better lessons as well: The usefulness of the church year as an organizing principle – Richard Bodey. The value of biblical theology for preaching – EP Clowney. A practical outline of the preacher’s task – Walt Kaiser. A robust theological account of preaching – JI Packer.
Nearly all of the men mentioned their conviction that there is no single right way to approach preaching, and almost every man indicated his debt to several models or mentors. The uneven quality of the contributions suggests that while there may be more than one right way, there are a number of wrong ones also. Lesson learned: choose your model carefully. I know I’ve learned both who to imitate and who to try to avoid imitating through this book, and that has been quite valuable.

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