Progress In The Pulpit: How To Grow In Your Preaching, by Jerry Vines & Jim Shaddox
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Moody Publishers. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
As someone who has been speaking from the pulpit off and on for more than a decade now , the importance of the progress one makes as a speaker is something I pay a great deal of attention to. It has been my own observation at least that many speakers do not make a great deal of progress over time. There is, towards the beginning of one’s education as a speaker, a great deal of time and effort spent in mastering the basics of study and preparation and organization and delivery of messages, but after that a lot of people simply coast by on their laurels and their God-given talents and do not dedicate a great deal of attention to improvement and growth. That is an unfortunate situation and the authors of this book seek to remedy this situation at least in part by encouraging speakers to make progress in the pulpit and grow rather than remain stagnant in one’s delivery and speaking. While complacency is a tendency none of us are immune to, the Spirit of God working within us seeks to change us through time into God’s image, and that is something that we all need to keep in mind.
This short book of about two hundred pages is divided into three parts and twelve short chapters. The first part of the book defines the sermon, revisiting the roots of expository preaching, discussing what it means to live and preach in the Spirit as a holy man of God, encourage speakers to plan to preach God’s revelation, and shepherd people to Christlikeness through preaching. The second part of the book encourages readers to develop the sermon through preaching literature and language, getting to the Cross in every sermon message, and imagining the sermon before one gives it. The third part of the book looks at the challenges of delivering a sermon, including a reflection on changes in culture and communication, extending the invitation (often known as the altar call), the art of objective sermon evaluation, and helping people worship through the sermon. Following a conclusion about the issue of progress there is an appendix that includes a sermon presentation feedback guide to encourage people to grow through receiving feedback.
Admittedly, I spring from a different religious tradition than the authors do, and so there is much in these books that I view from a different perspective. The authors, for example, spend a lot of time giving some unfriendly opinions about the lack of biblical focus among many who consider themselves involved in the work of ministry, and that is certainly not an issue in my own background, where the biblical focus is often very serious and intense. Likewise, the fact that the authors use the language of evangelical Christianity can be a barrier to those who do not have a background coming from people like Darby, Schofield, and Murray, as this book would presuppose. Even so, there is a great deal of worth in this message in encouraging speakers to gain feedback for improvement and also to focus on the life and preparation and larger context in which preaching is to be done. At some point, our messages need to tie back to the larger context of the Kingdom of God that we hope to reach ourselves and lead other people to. And if this book encourages that goal, it is certainly a worthwhile one, even if its perspective is not one I happen to entirely share.
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