Rather than a straightforward discussion of preaching preparation – as one might anticipate from the title – this is actually a series of meditations drawn from the daily life and work of a preaching minister. (Erdman is senior pastor of University Presbyterian Church in Fresno, Calif., and teaches preaching and leadership at Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary.)
Erdman’s insights are ones that will resonate with veteran preachers. For example, in discussing the challenge of preaching, he reminds us that, “Preaching that is safe and easy is quite simply not preaching. Safe and easy preaching is a domestication of the Word of God, a seduction of the preacher’s calling by the Sirens of the age, and a subordination of the preacher’s daring speech to forms of speech more ‘relevant’ to consumer appetites.”
Several of the meditations grew out of questions and concerns of Erdman’s seminary students. He observes, for example, that students often come asking the “how” question – how do I preach? Erdman responds: “‘How’ is a question of technology and technique. It’s not a wrong question; it’s just the wrong question to ask first. It’s a second question, and because of that it’ll never be powerful enough to get preachers like you and me up in the morning. The first question, the big question, does have the power to get you up and keep you up. Ask ‘Why?’ and your pursuit of an answer will get you on your feet. Get moving on this question first, and the second question will follow well enough.”
Erdman covers a wide variety of preaching-related topics. (My favorite chapter title is “If Your Sermon’s a Dog, Walk It Proudly.”) Though not a textbook, the book is nevertheless filled with helpful insights about the preaching task, both for beginners and those who have been preaching for many years. He deals with preparing sermons, preaching at weddings and funerals, preaching at moments of crisis, and much more.
Countdown to Sunday is an interesting and well-written collection of observations from someone who has experienced the joys and sorrows of preaching. ?