Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations & Quotes by Robert J. Morgan. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000. Paper, 833 pages. $19.99. ISBN 0-7852-4479-4.
Here’s an excellent new resource for preachers, providing a vast selection of stories and illustrations, as well as a very effective paper-weight for your desk! (At 833 pages, it can hold down paper in a tornado.)
I once heard Steve Brown say that homiletics professors tell their young charges not to use books of illustrations, “because those professors don’t have to go out and preach a new sermon every Sunday.” The reality is, most such books are of little value because they are simply reissues of old, musty preaching stories from past generations.
This collection, while it has its share of stories from the past, also has a healthy selection of contemporary illustations that will be of real value to preachers. Robert Morgan is pastor of the Donelson Fellowship in suburban Nashville, and this book reflects a pastor’s touch. The book is cross-referenced by topic and scripture, and even includes a helpful table following each illustration in which the pastor can record when and how the story was used. (That’s helpful if you want to avoid using the same stories every Easter and Christmas!)
This useful reference will be a worthwhile investment for every preacher who seeks to find quality illustrations.
Speaking with Bold Assurance by Bert Decker and Hershael W. York. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001. Paper, 182 pages. ISBN 0-8054-2210-2
I’ll admit it: I got off on the wrong foot with this book. It started on page one, with one of the most presumptuous statements ever put in print: “There have been thousands of books on speaking and hundreds on preaching, but none has combined a practical and proven methodology for speaking effectively with God’s Word.” Until this one, apparently.
If you can get past that “God’s gift to speakers” attitude, it’s actually an interesting book; it’s just not primarily for preachers. This is a book for Christian public speakers: lay leaders, church teachers, and, yes, even pastors. And there are some excellent insights which will be useful to preachers. Just don’t use it as a substitute for a solid book on preaching. (The fact that the back-cover blurbs are from Zig Ziglar, business author Ken Blanchard, and sportscaster Brent Jones should be the first hint.)
The heart of the book is the Decker Grid System, a trademarked approach to organizing a “listener-centered” speech, using four components: Cornerstones, which establish the purpose or foundation of the presentation; Create, which is the generation of ideas; Cluster, which involves grouping ideas around common themes; and Compose, which involves organizing and editing the clusters in an arrangement that can be easily communicated. All of this is done using “trigger words” written on small Post-It Notes, which the notes moved about as needed. It’s a clever idea for organizing an oral presentation.
The authors promise a forthcoming volume on Preaching with Bold Assurance, which will be written specifically for preachers.
Decker is chairman and founder of Decker Communications, Inc., and author of the book You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard. York is Associate Professor of Christian Preaching at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, KY.
The Minister’s Manual 2001, edited by James W. Cox. New York: Josey-Bass, 2000. Hardcover, 435 pages. ISBN 0-7879-5002-5
This perennial favorite is now being published by Josey-Bass, a publisher formerly known primarily for textbooks but which is making a significant foray into the world of religious publishing. As always in this series, James Cox has provided an excellent selection of sermon starters, outlines, illustrations and other homiletical reference material for the preaching minister.
While the Manual includes significant material for the lectionary-based preaching schedule, there is also much of value to pastors who use other preaching plans. (Those with no plan at all may find this volume particularly helpful!)
Cox is Senior Professor of Christian Preaching at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, KY, and the author or editor of many books on preaching.

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