You remember the pet rock? It was one of those products that every red-blooded American looked at in the store and said, “Why didn’t I think of something so stupid that would have made me rich?”
Browsing in the bookstore recently, I came across the literary equivalent of the pet rock. Life’s Little Instruction Book by H. Jackson Brown, Jr. ((c) 1991 by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.; published by Rutledge Hill Press, Nashville) is a small collection of pithy and obvious observations about “how to live a happy and rewarding life” (as if situation comedies didn’t already provide enough assistance in that department).
Mr. Brown first compiled this collection for his son, who was going away to college. The book contains 511 suggestions, such as: “Watch a sunrise at least once a year” (#3); “Eat prunes” (#74); “Don’t quit a job until you’ve lined up another” (#84); “Don’t use a toothpick in public” (#283); and “Enjoy real maple syrup” (#472). And people pay for this.
That’s what got me thinking: surely young preachers need a similar compendium of suggestions, lest they be forced to use common sense or think for themselves. So I’m hard at work on A Preacher’s Little Instruction Book, which I’m sure will be picked up by the first publisher that hears about it (and has far more money than good sense).
Here are some of the suggestions and observations I’ve identified thus far (feel free to send your own suggestions, provided you don’t expect a cut of the royalties):
#1 — Never insult the finance committee chairman.
#43 — Never begin your sermon with the words, “Knock, knock.”
#136 — Sunday School is a little too late to start preparing your sermon.
#201 — Never insult the finance committee chairman.
#285 — Don’t use that funny story about your wife as a sermon illustration.
#332 — Always renew your subscription to Preaching.
#369 — Churches don’t automatically consider longer sermons better.
#424 — Never insult the finance committee chairman.
#473 — Seminary class notes don’t preach well.
#502 — Only use “and finally” when you really mean it.
#511 — Never insult the finance committee chairman.
Although I’ve been inspired by Mr. Brown’s book, I haven’t found his specific suggestions to be all that helpful in writing to preachers, since he includes no references to deacons or other such obstacles to successful ministry. There is one suggestion that he makes, however, that I definitely plan to include in my book:
“Never give anyone a fruitcake” (#396)
If only I’d read his book before Christmas!

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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