8 Hours OR Less: Writing Faithful Sermons Faster, by Ryan Huguley
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Moody Publishers. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
As someone who fairly regularly speaks within my local congregations , I tend to read a fair amount of material on ways to improve my speaking. Although I consider myself a reasonably talented speaker, I know that as an intellectually inclined person it would be an easy temptation to speak only from the head and not from the heart or spirit as well, and that is something I wish to avoid. The author of this book is candid in admitting his own struggles as a writer of sermon messages, someone who is prone to procrastination, and someone who has something to say about how to give an expository message in a well-organized and prayerful way. In reading this book, I was struck by how much its advice was very similar to the sort of advice that goes on in my congregation’s sermonette class about the organization of an outline and the importance of notes as well as the value of focusing on a text and on a key element of that text to make the message a focused one.
This book is organized around a plan for a pastor to write out a message from beginning to end within the course of a week on a Monday to Sunday schedule. Obviously, those who worship the biblical Sabbath can change this plan slightly to match the proper schedule without much difficulty. The author begins by introducing himself and defining what a faithful sermon is. After that he gives six chapters (the Sabbath is given as an off day) that give a different task for each day. On Monday the author urges the reader to build the frame of the sermon message. On Tuesday one opens the door by working for an hour with a team on improving the message as planned. On Wednesday one sweats the introduction to come up with a compelling entrance. On Thursday one lands the plane by coming up with a solid conclusion. On Friday one fills in the frame by writing the rest of one’s manuscript. On Sunday one finishes strong, obviously enough. After that the author encourages the reader to work the process and make it a consistent one in message planning, after which appendices on sermon notes, preaching labs, and some sources to serve as a preacher’s toolbox bring this short book to just under 150 pages of material.
I found a great deal in this book that I greatly enjoyed. As someone who works to speak to the head, heart, and spirit, the author encouraged a disciplined and organized approach to delivering messages. The author’s strong preference for messages that come from the Bible out and that use commentaries and biblical word studies as a way of helping to overcome the frequent biblical illiteracy that plagues many churches is certainly also a welcome one that mirrors my own preferences. It is easy, as was the case with this book, to appreciate a book that reinforces one’s existing patterns and that backs up the way that one has already learned how to prepare messages in a timely fashion given a busy life. While the author assumes that his reading audience is made up of pastors like himself, the book is also profitable for use by lay members who nevertheless are in the place of preparing for messages on a reasonably frequent basis. For those who have the solemn responsibility to speak from the word of God to brethren, this is a good book that helps that responsibility be handled in an effective fashion.
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