?If the number of books on a subject are any indication, then preaching must be alive and well in America.
The past year has been a good one for books on preaching, with excellent volumes published dealing with a variety of issues relating to the proclamation of God’s Word. Our Book of the Year (see below) is simply one of the outstanding books claiming space on the preacher’s bookshelf.
Many of the year’s best books in homiletics have already been reviewed in recent issues of Preaching, including one of the most wide-ranging titles of the year: The Moody Handbook of Preaching (Moody Press), edited by John Koessler of the Moody Bible Institute (MBI) faculty. Written by members of the graduate and undergraduate faculty of MBI-along with three of the school’s 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.
As we said of this volume in our review in the July-August issue: “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.”
Addressing the growing interest in the first-person narrative sermon, Stephen Chapin Garner’s book Getting Into Character: The Art of First-Person Narrative Preaching (Baker) offers practical advice for preparing and presenting first-person narratives that will be fresh and engaging. Pastors who don’t have much experience with such sermons will find this a helpful resource and an encouragement to try such sermons from time to time.
As we noted in our review in the May-June issue, “First-person narrative brings characters to life in ways that can illustrate memorable gospel messages, thereby increasing effectiveness. Garner draws the connection between first-person narrative sermons and the dramatic monologue in theater, then uses those insights to help preachers develop their own work. He discusses selecting characters and using dialogue, how to plot your narrative, and other vital elements in crafting such messages.”
In What’s the Shape of Narrative Preaching (Chalice Press), a volume honoring Eugene Lowry, a team of homiletics professors have contributed essays to an interesting collection dealing with the past, present and future of narrative preaching. Those interested in the art and craft of preaching will enjoy this volume if only for its helpful summary about how the emphasis on narrative has come to be such a dominant part of the preaching literature over the past three decades. Edited by Mike Graves and David J. Schlafer, the contributors include a “who’s who” of well-known mainline homileticians, including Fred Craddock, David Buttrick, Thomas Long, Thomas Troeger, Frank Thomas, Barbara Lundblad and others.
In Preaching to a Post-Everything World (Baker), pastor and former seminary prof Zack Eswine helps his fellow preachers explore what it will take to reach “post-everything” people with God’s Word. The book explores many of the challenges biblical communicators face in today’s culture, but Eswine reminds us that ultimately our work is dependent not on ourselves but on God’s power. He discusses how to re-orient the biblical sermon to the unique challenges of a postmodern culture and builds on Chapell’s foundation of the “Fallen-Condition Focus.”
Among the books on preaching that garnered brief mention in previous issues was Preaching the Gospel of Mark (Westminster John Knox Press) by Dawn Ottoni Wilhelm, which offers a homiletical commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Another volume that was cited previously is We Preach Not Ourselves: Paul on Proclamation (Brazos), in which author Michael P. Knowles offers a rich analysis of the apostle’s philosophy of preaching through a rich study of the early chapters of Second Corinthians. Knowles shows that the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ shape not only Paul’s theology but also his view of and approach to preaching.
Some of the best volumes of the past year have not yet been given major reviews but will be addressed in upcoming issues. One of those is He Is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World (Moody Press) by R. Albert Mohler Jr. (An excerpt from the book appeared in the January-February issue of Preaching.) Arguing that contemporary preaching suffers from a lack of confidence in the power of the written and spoken word, an “infatuation with technology,” an embarrassment with and lack of biblical content, and a focus on felt needs, Mohler argues for a revival of expository preaching and a renewal of the role of pastor as theologian.
A related book is Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching (Reformation Trust), which includes a collection of essays by a variety of authors (John MacArthur, John Piper, Sinclair Ferguson, R.C. Sproul, Al Mohler, James Montgomery Boice and others), challenging preachers to a ministry characterized by faithful biblical preaching.
The issue of pastoral leadership through preaching is an important topic that has generated surprisingly little in the way of resources. In Strategic Preaching (Chalice Press), William E. Hull addresses this theme, offering a variety of insights for using preaching as a vital tool for leading a congregation. He offers both hermeneutical and homiletical strategies for preaching as a tool of pastoral leadership, and includes a variety of practical insights that pastors will find thought-provoking.
In We Have Heard That God Is with You: Preaching the Old Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans), Dutch author Rein Bos offers a “hermeneutical grammar” to assist pastors in the task of preaching the Old Testament in a Christian context. He argues for a four-fold approach to the biblical text: the Jewish sense, the Christological sense, the ecclesiological sense and the eschatological sense.
While most books in the area of homiletics deal with the content and construction of the sermon, one recent release takes a different approach. Jana Childers and Clayton J. Schmit have edited Performance in Preaching: Bringing the Sermon to Life (Baker), which includes essays by a variety of contributors, including Paul Scott Wilson, Marguerite Shuster, Ron Allen and Charles Bartow. A welcome addition to the text is a 90-minute DVD that demonstrates some of the practical performance techniques and teachings discussed in the text.
One final volume that should be mentioned is Teaching Preaching as a Christian Practice (Westminster John Knox), edited by Thomas Long and Leonora Tubbs Tisdale. Directed to those who teach homiletics, the many contributors-all drawn from mainline denominations and seminaries-argue for a rethinking of how preaching is taught. While the insights do not seem as earth-shaking as some of the contributors appear to believe, it is nevertheless a helpful resource for those who teach preaching, allowing them to rethink the how and why of their task.
?Book of the Year Addresses Multi-Sensory Preaching
Each year when we face the question of which volume to recognize as Book of the Year, a variety of questions come to the fore: Which books are the most helpful to preachers? Which are the most comprehensive? Which offer new or significant insights? From year to year, differing issues seem to drive the process that results in a featured book on preaching.
This year our Preaching Book of the Year has been selected because it effectively and powerfully deals with an issue that is going to make a profound impact on preaching in the coming years. Because it has the potential to shape the conversation among pastors in meaningful ways, we are pleased to recognize the book The Power of Multi-Sensory Preaching and Teaching by Rick Blackwood, published by Zondervan Press.
Blackwood is senior pastor of Christ Fellowship, a fast-growing multicultural congregation in Miami, Florida. The genesis of the book was his own experiences as a preaching pastor who recognized that the use of communicative tools that engaged more than the ear caused a significant enhancement in his own congregation’s listening and learning. From that simple beginning, he carried his concern into significant research and experimentation as part of his Ed.D. study at Southern Baptist Seminary.
Both observation and extensive research led Blackwood to what he calls the multi-sensory effect: “The more senses the teacher stirs in the audience, the higher the levels of audience attention, comprehension, and retention.” That was translated into a simple formula:
Verbal clarity + Visual aids + Interaction = Maximum Learning
The author draws on neurological research that indicates that modern communications technologies have significantly shaped the ways we can hear, comprehend and retain information. “Many people in our congregation, especially the younger people, have brains that are neurologically rewired and neurologically dependent on multi-sensory teaching,” Blackwood asserts. Thus, if we want to reach not only the auditory learners but also the visual and interactive learners, we must learn to effectively use multi-sensory communication techniques.
An important element of this book is that Blackwood does not see multi-sensory preaching as a performance-based tool that discounts biblical content. To the contrary, he emphasizes the necessity of strong biblical content and effective verbal clarity in preaching; he simply points out that in today’s communication environment, the addition of visual and interactive teaching approaches makes it far more likely that our listeners can truly hear, understand and respond to biblical truth.
Some great preaching books deal primarily with theory. This book not only contains a big idea-it is also packed with practical ideas and observations drawn from the daily life of a growing church. Pastors will find it to be a fascinating and thought-provoking book. Indeed, it may change the way you think about preaching more than any other book you’ve read in recent years.
And that is why The Power of Multi-Sensory Preaching and Teaching is our Preaching Book of the Year.