Power In The Pulpit: How To Prepare And Deliver Expository Sermons, by Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddox
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Moody Publishers. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
As soon as I saw this book and its companion volume available for review, I was enthusiastic to read them. As someone who speaks occasionally from the pulpit myself, and being fairly young and unseasoned in the task , I tend to be greatly interested in reading that will help me be more effective in that task. These books have become classics in that specialized genre of pastoral writing and have certainly earned their position. Strikingly, I found that this book’s advice largely mirrored and encouraged what I was already doing, and I was pleased to see that this was the case. Not all readers will find that this book encourages their practice, but those readers who already take their preparation for messages seriously and whose focus is on speaking from the text out rather than seeking to shoehorn a text into a preconceived idea will find much to appreciate in the authors’ focus on encouraging expository preaching here. There may be quite a few people who do not realize they are already practicing expository preaching along with those who think they are and are not.
The roughly four hundred pages of material in this book are divided into three parts and ten large chapters. The first part of the book focuses on preparing to give expository messages. This preparation begins with a look at expository preaching as an approach rather than a type of message, an approach that focuses on preaching the truths of the Bible and limiting one’s messages to that which comes from the Bible and not primarily from ourselves, as well as properly preparing messages in order to give as complete a picture of biblical truth as possible. The authors then discuss the theology of expository preaching, which focuses as much as possible on areas of fundamental biblical importance rather than doubtful matters. Additionally, the authors focus a great deal of attention on the life of the preacher as an essential area of preparation for proper speaking. The second part of the book discusses the process of exposition, giving extensive discussion on studying text and properly interpreting it and organizing the sermon for the purposes of unifying and outlining points and then amplifying, introducing, and concluding. The third part of the book looks at issues of presentation, giving useful insights on the development of a speaker’s preaching style, the proper use of the voice as the preacher’s instrument, making the connection with both head and heart, and some keys to effective physical delivery of messages. The book concludes with some appendices that provide observation examples, a structural diagram of a message, a sermon summary sheet, and relaxation and breathing exercises.
Although I found this book to be of great value as encouragement, and certainly a book that many preachers could and should take to heart, there was much about this book, that does not mean that I found the material to be free of criticism. I found in general that the book operates fundamentally from a Hellenistic thinking process that views there being only one level or layer of meaning in a given text, with the job of the preacher being to find this one layer. The authors appear to be somewhat hostile to the allegorical level of meaning of texts, probably because of their frequent misuse by many preachers. That said, while this book was very good at dealing with issues of genre analysis as well as the literal layer of text, I found the book less satisfying in encouraging preachers to effectively address the allegorical levels of text or the hints that often connect one verse to another, especially in the conversations of biblically literate speakers like Jesus Christ and John the Baptist or the writings of the Apostle Paul, to give but a couple of many possible examples. This book is somewhat limited in its scope because the authors come from the perspective of Hellenistic rather than biblical Christianity, but within those limitations of approach the book offers considerable insight in how speakers can better prepare messages for their congregations and enjoy speaking with more spiritual power in the pulpit.
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