Thursday, October 27, 2005

Six Favourite Books on Preaching

As sort of a follow-up to yesterday's post, here's a selection of some of the books that I have really appreciated on preaching. In no particular order

Ministering like the Master - Stuart Olyott
If Jesus preached from one of our pulpits today, what would his preaching be like? Stuart Olyott, one of my favourite preachers, looks at Jesus' preaching in the Sermon on the Mount and brings out key principles. One of the great things about this book is that it originated as three addresses at a minister's conference, and so it carries the flavour of the spoken word, and as such illustrates the principles that Olyott is seeking to instil. One of the best books on preaching. Olyott says a lot with few words.

Preaching - Pure & Simple - Stuart Olyott
This is Olyott's second book on preaching. I first heard the content of these talks on mp3, and they transformed how I think about preaching. He isn't afraid to call traditions into question, or to make bold suggestions. His chapter on Spiritual urgency and Supernatural Authority are worth the price of the book alone. Olyott is a deceptively simple communicator - his few words, and short sentences contain a wealth of thought.

Preaching and Teaching with Imagination - Warren Wiersbe
I came across this footnoted in a compilation of essays edited by DA Carson called "Telling the Truth". The essay by Colin S. Smith quoted a fictional story Wiersbe had used to illustrate his point. Let me give it to you in abbreviated form:

Grandma Thatcher hobbles into church one morning. As usual, her unsaved husband had sent her off to church with curses ringing in her ears. She was in constant pain, and had a doctor's appointment on Wednesday. She dreaded the arrival of winter and was praying that fuel prices wouldn't go up again. If it weren't for her Lord, her large-print Bible, and her Christian friends, Grandma Thatcher would have given up a long time ago.

When Pastor Bowers stepped into the pulpit to preach, Grandma Thatcher silently prayed, "Father, give him something special for me. I need it!" The text was Genesis 9, and the message was the twenty-second in a series on Genesis that Pastor Bowers called "Beginning at the Beginnings."

The sermon was titled, "God Talks to Noah." Pastor Bowers read the chapter and then gave the congregation his main points:

I. Creation Presented - 9:1-3
II. Capital Punishment - 9:4-7
III. Covenant Promised - 9:8-17
IV. Carnality Practiced - 9:18-23
V. Consequences Prophesied - 9:24-29

As some of the saints dutifully wrote the outline in the space provided on the back page of their worship folders, Grandma Thatcher breathed a disappointed sigh. "Last week it was all S's. Today it's all CP's." She settled back in the pew, turned the preacher off and began meditating on the psalm she'd read early that morning before George had gotten up to menace her day.
It struck me that that outline was like a lot of the preaching I heard around me (except from my own pastor). It wasn't really a sermon, just a verbal commentary on the passage. Wiersbe's book seeks to bring life and imagination into such stale sermons. He does so not by being innovative, but by being biblical. A significant chunk of the book is devoted to looking at the use of imagery throughout scripture. He then shows how we can use the Bible to guide our imagination in our sermon preparation so that what we say makes it into the lives of our hearers.

Sense appeal in the sermons of CH Spurgeon - Jay Adams
I think it's sinful to be dull as a preacher. And since God has given us different senses we should preach in such a way that the whole man is engaged. Adam's study of Spurgeon is most helpful and thought-provoking.

The Power of Speaking God's Word - Wilbur Ellsworth
What makes a sermon memorable? By memorable, I don't mean outstanding, rather that it sticks in the memory. Ellsworth's argument is that sermons should be prepared to be so clear that we don't need notes, but rather can look the people in the eye and tell them what we have to say. What a challenge! His argument is that if after a week of study we can't retain what we are about to say without notes, what hope is there for those who haven't studied it all week!

My Heart for thy cause - Brian Borgman
The sub-title of this book is "Albert N. Martin's Theology of Preaching". For anyone who has heard Al Martin preach you'll know why this book has an impact. His sermons are marked by faithful exegesis, forceful and pointed application, clear illustration and a passionate desire to communicate the truth of God's word. This book looks at the key elements of Martin's preaching. In a sense it could be the contents of a homiletics course, it is so thorough.

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