As preachers, we recognize it is all too easy to say the wrong thing in a message and derail a sermon. In their book What Not to Say (Westminster John Knox), John Holbet and Alyce McKenzie seek to help preachers avoid “the common mistakes that can sink your sermon.” The book offers suggestions about what not to say (and what to say) about God and the Bible, about yourself and about your people, and at the beginning, middle and end of the sermon.
Readers should recognize in advance that many of the authors’ suggestions about what to say—and not to say—grow out of their own theological positions. (Both are professors of preaching at Southern Methodist University.) Still, readers of any theological persuasion will find this to be a helpful volume, offering interesting and practical insights on a variety of topics.
Sometimes a book is better than its title. Ken Burge’s new book Preaching with F.I.R.E.’s E.T.A. (Xulon Press) is likely to cause some to stumble and overlook this small but useful book. The acronym in the title is a mnemonic device which describes the seven-step process for sermon preparation outlined in the book: familiarity, interpretation, relationship and employment, then exegetical, theological and application.
In addition to the topics addressed there, Burge also discusses ways to structure the pastor’s preaching schedule, the role of the Holy Spirit in sermon preparation and delivery, and more. Burge is a veteran pastor who has written for this publication, and he has written a book that promises to be helpful to many preachers.
If you are looking for a book to share with a young pastor early in ministry, you can do much worse than giving him or her a copy of What Every Pastor Should Know (Baker Books) by Gary L. McIntosh and Charles Arn. Subtitled 101 Indispensable Rules of Thumb for Leading Your Church, the book offers brief, practical treatments of topics under categories such as “Ministry Rules for Evangelism & Outreach,” “For Visitors,” “For Connecting with and Assimilating Newcomers,” “For Facilities,” “For Finances” and much more.
The “Ministry Rules for Worship” include comments on things such as “The Sermon Preparation Rule” (“a pastor should spend at least 15 hours each week in sermon preparation, divided over at least two weeks”), and “The Message Rule” (“the sermon is not the message; the service is the message”).
This is a great tool for young pastors and a helpful refresher for those who have been in ministry for awhile but will benefit from the counsel of these two veteran church growth leaders.