Keeping Life in Perspective: Sharpening Your Sense of What’s Important by Jim Henry with Marilyn Jeffcoat (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996), 208 pp., hardcover, $16.99.
Moral Earthquakes and Secret Faults: Protecting Yourself from Minor Moral Lapses that Lead to Major Disaster by O.S. Hawkins (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996), 192 pp., hardcover, $14.99.
Two characteristics appear to be common to much of the best preaching in today’s church: it is biblically-shaped and rooted, yet it places a major emphasis on applying the teachings of scripture to the real-life issues that face contemporary people.
These two recent releases share both characteristics. Each grows out of the preaching ministry of a leading Southern Baptist pastor: Jim Henry is pastor of Orlando’s First Baptist Church, while O.S. Hawkins is pastor of First Baptist, Dallas. (Each is also a Contributing Editor of Preaching.) Both churches have experienced significant growth under the leadership of these preacher/authors.
Henry’s messages take issues that shape our perspective (change, possessions, guilt, integrity, family, passion, etc.) and explores ways in which a biblical approach can provide a richer and more satisfactory life experience. The book is filled with contemporary illustrations, as is the Hawkins volume.
Moral Earthquakes makes the case that tiny “character cracks” in our lives ultimately grow into major fissures that can result in moral collapse if left unchecked. Only by dealing with the small temptations along the way will be able to avoid the devastating moral collapses that may face us.
Hawkins’ book uses a variety of biblical characters (Abraham, Jacob, Peter, and others) to demonstrate how moral faults can be healed. It is a timely and practical series of messages on moral purity which pastors will find to be an able model for their own preaching.
Pitfalls in Preaching by Richard L. Eslinger (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1996), 152 pp., paper, $12.00.
In contrast to a book of “how to” advice, Eslinger offers a book of “what not to” counsel! The author advises against a host of “pitfalls” under the categories of Rhetoric, Scripture & Interpretation, Method, Illustrations, and Context and Delivery. There is much healthy counsel offered, both for young preachers and for seasoned preachers seeking to evaluate their own preaching and consider ways to improve.
A word of caution: Eslinger’s own perspective is that of the “new homiletic.” an approach shaped by Fred Craddock and David Buttrick which rejects the more propositional, “rationalistic” homiletical approach of previous generations, and substitutes a more inductive, narrative model. The “new homiletic” has assumed virtual canonical status in mainline homiletics, and has made a substantial influence on many evangelicals.
All preachers can and should learn to more effectively use narrative tools in their preaching and to understand the place of inductive models in preaching. It is worth observing, however, that pastors (like Henry and Hawkins) who cling to the “old homiletic” of biblical exposition are more likely to find themselves leading growing congregations than their “new homiletics” counterparts. Let the preacher be aware.
(Michael Duduit)

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