edited by John Koessler
Chicago Moody Publishers, 2008. Hardcover, 413 pages.
Those of us who have been called to preach are always on the lookout for resources that will help us do a more effective job of proclaiming God’s Word. The Moody Handbook of Preaching is just such a tool, and preachers will find much value in its pages.
Written by members of the graduate and undergraduate faculty of Moody Bible Institute-along with three MBI presidents-the Handbook explores a variety of preaching-related topics under four major headings: Forming a Philosophy of Preaching, Mining the Text, Illustrating Truth, and Developing Methodology.
The first major section begins with an interesting essay by general editor John Koessler (who teaches preaching at MBI) on how postmodern influences have impacted the sermon, with a shift away from the text “to the preacher’s own experience and that of the audience.” Among the eight chapters in this section, current president Michael Easley makes the case for expository preaching in his own essay, while past president Joseph Stowell offers a celebration of preaching and George Sweeting talks about the relationship of evangelism and preaching.
The second major division deals with preaching from various biblical genres: historical narrative, didactic literature, poetry, and prophetic materials. Two closing chapters deal with the use of the biblical languages in preaching.
Preachers will find much of interest in the section on Illustrating Truth, particularly in the chapters dealing with the use of film, drama and technology. That final chapter-by communications professor Paul Butler-reminds us that our motivations in using technology are critical: “What often begins as ‘relevance and outreach’ can easily become ‘flair and sparkle.’ Personally, many times I have spent more energy on the slides than the content of a presentation. When that happens, it almost always leads to style over substance. The most important principle in determining to what extent media technologies ought to be involved in our ministries can be summed up in this axiom: For media to be effective in the church, it must support the content of the message, not distract from it.”
The final major division of the book deals with methodology, including essays on outlining the sermon, the use of logic, and connecting with listeners. There’s a helpful chapter on the preacher’s speaking voice (a too-neglected topic in our field, considering how essential the voice is to our task). The final chapter will be a useful tool for many pastors in helping them better understand how to use Bible software to exegete a text for preaching. As the authors note, “The information provided by the exegete needs to be accurate, and the software provides this precision.”
The Handbook is not a comprehensive survey of the preaching task, but the topics it does deal with are handled well. The fact that all the contributors come from the MBI community means that the Handbook does not reflect a wide diversity of thought, but it does give the collection a strong and unified voice.
Those who preach will find The Moody Handbook of Preaching to be an interesting and useful resource filled with solid and practical insights that will encourage effective biblical preaching.
edited by John Koessler