Preaching For The Contemporary Service.
Abingdon Press, 2006. Paper, 134 pages.
Author: Joseph M. Webb

all the emphasis on celebrative music and multi-sensory presentations
in many contemporary worship services, some ask the question: should
preaching still be a central part of such services?

Joseph Webb argues that “there is no substitute for the preacher, the
speaker, the one who stands and speaks the gospel in a dynamic,
life-enhancing way.” However, Webb insists, the demand for that
“dynamic” presentation necessitates a mode of preaching that does not
bear the burden of “traditional preaching” which “by reputation” is
considered boring.

So Webb argues for an
approach he calls “improvisational preaching,” drawing on insights
from the stage, from jazz, and even from stand-up comedy to profile
an approach to preaching that is “not dull, not boring, not stuck
someplace in the past.” By improvisation he is not arguing for
sermons that lack preparation, but for preaching that reflects a
freshness and energy characteristic of improvisational performances.

Webb offers a lengthy discussion of the characteristics of such
preaching. One critical issue, he asserts, is the need to preach
without notes in the contemporary service. He notes, “The bottom line
is that improvisational speaking, and preaching, requires that it be
done without notes. Despite how well prepared it must be, it must
still come across to those who hear it and share it as someone just
talking to us. Not preaching to us. Not lecturing to us. Not trying to
get us to do this or that. It is someone who just stood in front of
us and, with passion, shared his or her heart.”

There is much in the book that will be helpful to preachers (or
speakers) wishing to enhance their communication skills. He offers
useful insights on “the art of the story,” and his section on
plotting the sermon – much as a director plots a movie – is worth
further study. (In his interview with Preaching magazine that’s available online at, Rick Warren talks about his own efforts in this regard.)

the same time, Webb’s argument would have been strengthened by
offering real-life examples from the experiences of preachers who are
modeling effective preaching in contemporary services. And the reader
will want to recognize that while a number of pastors doing effective
preaching in contemporary services are using techniques that mirror
Webb’s analysis, others are using different methodologies with equal
success. There is no “golden road” to homiletical glory, even in the
contemporary service.

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