Craddock, Fred B. Preaching (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1985), 224pp, $16.95.
Fred Craddock, Professor of Preaching and New Testament at Candler School of Theology and Graduate Division of Religion, Emory University, brings his unique and considerable skills to the aid of the preacher in this volume.
No stranger to most preachers, Craddock was thrust into national prominence through the delivery and publication of his 1978 Lyman Beecher Lectures at Yale. Those lectures published as Overhearing the Gospel, were greeted by many preachers as one of the most creative and useful homiletic presentations in recent memory. The present volume should be greeted with similar enthusiasm.
Craddock demonstrates a genuine and abiding commitment to the preaching task. Teaching both New Testament and preaching, his role is often that of a bridge-builder between exegesis and preaching. Many have benefited from his suggestions in the Preaching the New Common Lectionary series.
Preaching is the result of Craddock’s painstaking effort to approach the process of preaching with a practical focus. The volume is not one of the numerous “how to” books available on preaching, yet each chapter is full of practical advice presented in a manner relevant to the preacher. The reader of this volume encounters a vision of preaching which calls out the best in every preacher.
Craddock’s goal in this volume is excellence in preaching. He spends very little time establishing a rationale for the practice of preaching, but launches at once into his discussion of the art of proclamation. This is no apology for preaching; it is a confident presentation of the rich possibilities inherent in the sermon and its presentation.
The author addresses the book to both students and established ministers. Both will find the book extremely helpful. The student will find the volume a helpful and inspiring entrance into the preacher’s life and work. Established preachers will find the book an excellent resource for polishing skills and developing areas of further interest. The book was intentionally written to address both of these levels.
The author suggests that established preachers may choose to read only the sections of the book which concern their current interests for the improvement of their preaching. The volume is structured so that this is possible. The reader who does this, however, will likely be inspired to read the volume in its entirety. Craddock’s presentation is a lucid and cohesive whole.
Craddock has a genuine understanding and concern for the person of the preacher. The image of the preacher apparent in the volume is a very human instrument. Nevertheless, Craddock has great hopes for excellence in preaching. At several points he identifies the characteristics which distinguish excellence in preaching from the ordinary. The message we preach is no ordinary message.
The first section of the book, “An Overview,” is an interesting introduction to the discipline of preaching. Craddock quickly convinces the reader of the importance of both the content and the execution of good preaching.
In his words, preaching is “orality,” not “textuality.” The typical student today has received little training in oral discourse. Though previous generations were trained in rhetoric and speech, most contemporary preachers learned to express themselves almost entirely in writing. The goal of preaching, Craddock reminds, is to get something heard.
Chapters entitled “A Theology of Preaching” are, unfortunately, often the least interesting sections of books on preaching. This is not at all the case with Craddock’s discussion. Through the use of three biblical images, the author builds a theology for preaching which should shape the reader’s understanding of the function of preaching in the life of the church. The Word, suggests Craddock, proceeds from silence, is heard as a whisper, and is then shouted from the housetops. “The Word of God at the ear is a whisper; at the mouth it is a shout.”
Though the entire book has preaching as its direct conern, the sermon itself is not addressed until the eighth chapter of the book. The first seven chapters concern important matters often neglected. Craddock is a firm believer in the necessity of study. Realizing the demands made upon the minister, the author nevertheless sets forth a strident and convincing argument for understanding time involved in genuine study as time involved with the congregation. Working in the study is time among the flock.
Craddock’s suggestions related to study and preparation should assist the preacher to take advantage of the moments of creative thought so important to effective preaching. These fertile thoughts, termed “eurekas” by the author, must be conserved and utilized in the interest of effective communication. “Unless the minister has two eurekas, it is not likely the listeners will have one.”
Craddock makes a firm distinction between the content of preaching and its effective communication. He goes so far as to suggest that a break be inserted between the process of determining what is to be said, and the subsequent process of finding a strategy which will communicate that content to listeners.
When dealing with the mechanics of the sermon, Craddock demonstrates a creative familiarity with the classic structures and forms of preaching and presents them in a relevant manner. The book contains a variety of interesting suggestions concerning the choice of a text, its interpretation, and appropriate means of bringing the text to life. Craddock resists the temptation to present a single model as best. In a manner uncommon to books of this genre, Craddock leaves the individual reader/preacher considerable room for personal choices and discrimination. The reader is likely to feel that Craddock is more a colleague than a teacher.
The preacher who reads this volume will feel more confident about the challenge of preaching. The book is worth reading just for Craddock’s discussion of the role of recognition and anticipation as qualities to be sought in the sermon. Many a dull, lifeless message would come alive at the mouth of a preacher and the ear of the congregation if these two precious qualities were built into the structure of the sermon. This volume should prove to be of great value toward better preaching and better preachers.
Aycock, Don M., ed. Heralds to a New Age: Preaching for the Twenty-first Century (Elgin, IL: Brethren Press, 1985), 264pp., $7.95.
This volume of articles and addresses is, quite simply, one of the most eclectic collections ever assembled around the theme of preaching. Luminaries from W. A. Criswell to Harry Emerson Fosdick — and everywhere in between — are represented within these pages.
The essays, originally published in various journals or delivered at conferences on preaching, are arranged loosely around four components of the preaching concern. Articles concern the history and theology of preaching, preaching and psychology, preaching and worship, and practical considerations. These categories are rather fluid. Some essays cross over boundaries and others defy definition. Generally, all of the chapters are worthy of the preacher’s reading time.
Some readers might question the value of such an assortment of essays and authors. The value of the volume is found in the fact that very few ministers are able to stay current with the periodical and conference literature on their discipline. This collection presents twenty-four articles and presentations in a form available to every preacher. The result is a helpful volume of diminutive sections well-suited for abbreviated periods of reading.
No reader will find every article to his or her liking. The great diversity of concerns and approaches renders this unlikely. Nevertheless, the volume has a charm and character precisely because of this diversity. Where else can one find a colloquy on evangelistic invitations with Criswell, John Bisagno, and Adrian Rogers in the same volume with a symposium on sermon preparation with Fosdick, Ralph Sockman, and others?
Each of these contributors, living and dead, share a common commitment to quality preaching and effective communication. Their challenge is issued clearly. In the words chosen by William E. Hull as the theme and text of his seminal contribution, an adaptation of his memorable inaugural sermon at First Baptist Church, Shreveport, Louisiana, “We preach not ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord.”
Hall, E. Eugene, and Heflin, James L. Proclaim the Word! (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1985), 263pp., $9.95.
Heflin and Hall, colleagues in the preaching department at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, have collaborated to produce this basic volume on preaching. The authors present nine chapters with a wide range of concern from the motivation for preaching to its execution. The seminary context of the volume is apparent. The volume should serve well as a basic introduction to Christian Preaching as well as a good refresher course for others seeking a solid resource.
The structure of the book has been informed by the innovations of programmed instruction. Relevant study questions and a list of suggested reading follow each chapter. The volume includes discussions on numerous practical matters deemed pedestrian by the authors of many contemporary works on preaching. The sermon delivery of countless ministers could be dramatically improved by careful attention to the principles of articulation detailed in the final chapter.
Proclaim the Word! is clearly a textbook. It is not particularly inspiring, yet it covers issues other volumes often ignore. Contemporary innovations are given little attention, though narrative preaching and other issues of present concern are mentioned. The fact is, all preachers need to examine basic skills periodically. Readers may reach for this volume for assistance in this regard.
The Bethany Parallel Commentary on the Old Testament. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1985. 1,983 pp. $49.95.
This volume provides three classic commentaries (condensed versions) of the Old Testament — Matthew Henry, Adam Clarke, and Jamieson/Fausset/Brown — plus supplementary notes from a variety of commentators in an easy-to-use format. It should prove to be a helpful resource to pastors (especially those with limited resources), Sunday School teachers and others.
Baker’s Handbook of Practical Theology. Edited by Ralph G. Turnbull. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1967. 450 pp. $14.95.
This is the newly-issued paperback edition of Baker’s Dictionary of Practical Theology. It includes articles on a variety of pastoral concerns, including preaching, hermeneutics, pastoral care, administration, worship and other areas. With outstanding contributors such as Bernard Ramm, Wayne Oates, William Sanford LaSor, I. Howard Marshall and others, it offers a valuable introduction to many areas of concern for ministers.
E. Lee Phillips. Prayers for Worship. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985. 143 pp. $4.95.
Russell E. Spray. Concise Sermon Outlines. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985. 73 pp. $3.95.
These two new additions to Baker’s Pulpit Library series offer idea starters and inspiration for pastors. Phillips’ volume, which includes an introduction by John Killinger, includes suggested public prayers for a variety of settings, plus a selection of litanies. Spray’s book provides 34 brief sermon outlines, with little supporting material.
John R. Brokhoff, Lectionary Preaching Workbook, Series C. Lima, Ohio: C.S.S. Publishing Company, Inc., 1985. 297 pp. $23.75.
For the preacher who uses the Lutheran and Common (Consensus) Lectionaries, this workbook may provide helpful insights. Brokhoff offers a discussion of the various seasons of the Christian year, then for each Sunday of the year provides a prayer, theme suggestions, and preaching ideas for all three texts.
In addition to this larger volume, C.S.S. Publishing has a series of smaller books with sermon manuscripts using the various Lectionary texts for the coming months:
Roy C. Nichols, The Greening of the Gospel: Sermons for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. (Series C Gospel Texts) $5.25.
Carl L. Jech, Shadows and Symbols: Sermons for Lent and Easter (First Lesson Texts) $5.75.
Thomas D. Peterson. Doing Something by Doing Nothing: Sermons for First Third of Pentecost Season. (Gospel Texts) $5.25.
John T. Ball. Barefoot in the Palace: Sermons for Middle Third of Pentecost Season. (Gospel Texts) $5.25.
Wallace H. Kirby. If Only. Sermons for Middle Third of Pentecost Season. (First Lesson Texts) $5.25.
Alvin Reuter. The Freedom to be Wrong: Sermons for Last Third of Pentecost Season. (Gospel Texts) $5.25.
B. David Hostetter. Psalms and Prayers for Congregational Participation. $6.50.
Craddock, Fred B. Preaching (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1985), 224pp, $16.95.