Book review: “Preaching By The Book: Developing and Delivering Text-Driven Sermons”
R. Scott Pace, professor of preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written this concise, but thorough, manual on how to preach expository sermons.
The chapters are structured — like many sermons– with alliterated titles, under three main parts (The Foundation, The Framework, The Finishing Touches), and chapters under those parts (Inspiration, Investigation, Interpretation, Implementation, Introductions, Illustrations, Invitations, Conclusion). However, a better way to understand this book is found on page 18, where he gives a chart of a seven-step process of sermon development. The rest of the book fleshes out the skeleton of these seven steps. As an experienced preacher myself, I can testify that this is a very helpful, balanced, and Biblical approach. It is helpful because it is practical and applicable. It is balanced between theory and practice, and balanced in cautioning against extremes (such as not using too few or too many illustrations). It is consistently affirmed with Biblical reasons and quotations. The only major omission I noticed was no discussion whatsoever of Bible translations, which is a dilemma for many preachers.
Given the brevity of this book (115 pages of text), I was surprised at how much it covered. He does not go into great detail, yet he covers every important topic in the sermon process. He gives sufficient information and examples where needed, such as on page 62, where he gives a sample outline of a text. He frequently gives practical advice, as on page 15 where he advises the rule of thumb that the preacher dress one degree more formal than his listeners, and on page 106 where he suggests a preacher give those responding to the invitation one word to say as they come forward, to cope with their nervousness.
Overall, this can be an excellent textbook for a class on preaching (supplemented by a professor’s assignments of practicing sermon writing and delivery), a primer for a new preacher, and a tune-up for the seasoned preacher.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from B & H Bloggers. I was not obligated to write a positive review.
Is your worldview from Hollywood or the Bible?
Copyright by Bob Rogers.
Is your worldview more in line with Hollywood or the Bible?
Let’s take four popular Hollywood movies as an example. Titanic, The Avengers, The Hunger Games, Inception. Do you have any idea if these movies have a Christian worldview? If you live by the view of life in these movies, will you build on a rock or just blow in the wind?
So how can we avoid being blown by the wind of popular opinion? How can we build a solid foundation for our lives?
Jesus said to build on the rock in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:24-27). He was referring to Himself and His teachings. Notice how this can give you a solid foundation for life.
There are four main components to a coherent worldview: what you believe about God, mankind, ethics and reality.
1) God. In the movie The Avengers, Black Widow tells Captain America that Thor and Loki are “basically gods.” Even so, Cap adds something else. “There’s only one God,” he tells her, “and I’m pretty sure He doesn’t dress like that.”
The Bible teaches God is the Creator. Genesis 1:1 says that in the beginning, God created. It also teaches that there is one God, but He is revealed in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So when characters on Star Wars say “may the force be with you,” Christians know the true “force” is God.
But there are many religions that believe in God. The Christian belief about God provides the answer for the other three major components of a coherent worldview, and they all fit together, like pieces of a puzzle.
2) Mankind. In the movie The Hunger Games, Katniss understands that life has great value, and she is willing to sacrifice her own life to save others. The Bible says something good and something bad and something that is potentially great about mankind. The good thing is that we are made in the image of God. The bad thing is that we are all sinners. The great thing is that through faith in Jesus Christ, we can be forgiven of sin, and have eternal life. Why? Because Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us by paying for our sin through His death on the cross.
3) Ethics. In the movie Titanic, Jack is having a sexual romp with Rose and says, “This is crazy; it doesn’t make any sense,” She responds, “I know, that’s why I trust it.” That kind of thinking will sink you about as fast as the iceberg. It’s sinking thinking! A coherent worldview needs to have a foundation for ethics. Philosophers like Plato and Aristotle said to do the right thing and do the reasonable thing, but how can we know what that is? That is why we need a standard to live by, and because we believe in God, we have that standard. The Bible says gives us the Ten Commandments and many other moral teachings, but it also gives us the power to live a godly life. Somebody might say that other religions like Islam also believe in God and have a holy book with a standard of living. That is true. But other religions do not have the same motivation for ethics that Christianity has. Other religions seek to motivate good ethics by guilt, but Christianity motivates by grace. Titus 2:11-12 says, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It (grace) teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions…” We have the motivation of grace, and we also have the power of the Holy Spirit, as every believer is indwelled by the Spirit, so as we live by the Spirit, we are able to live ethical lives (Romans 8:4), producing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
4) Reality. In the movie Inception, characters living in a dream within a dream within a dream. They are not even sure what reality is, whether this world is real, and whether this life is worth living. The Bible teaches that this life is very real, and that the ultimate reality is found in eternal life in heaven through faith in Jesus Christ. The purpose of life is to know Christ and share Him with others, that we may please God and experience the reward of eternal life in heaven.
Do you see how all of this fits together? If we believe in the God of the Bible, then all of the pieces of the puzzle fit together. God is the source of all truth. All of this truth is found in the Bible. A Christian who does not know his or her Bible is like a cowboy with no bullets in his gun. He may look good, but in battle, he’s useless.
If an entertainer on Dancing with the Stars says that God is in her shoes, will you know your Bible well enough to know that God is separate from us and beyond us? If you go to see a movie like Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby and see the hero killing the heroine so that she won’t have to live the rest of her life as an invalid, will you know your Bible well enough to know that all life is sacred and valued by God, and that it is wrong for us to take a human life just because that life is sick or handicapped?
First Peter 3:15 (HCSB) says, “Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for the reason for the hope that is in you.” The word translated “defense” is the Greek word apologia, from which we get apologetics, defending the faith.
So know what you believe, and be ready to defend it. Don’t let Hollywood do your thinking for you.