David M. Greenhaw and Ronald J. Allen, editors. Preaching in the Context of Worship. (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2000) Paper, 145 pages. ISBN 0-8272-2956-9.
One of the most critical issues facing the church in the current era is worship. The “worship wars” of recent years have offered more heat than light, and countless churches continue to struggle with conflicts over worship styles. While conflict is not necessary or healthy, clearly the church has much to consider in evaluating the place and nature of worship today.
In this brief volume, David Greenhaw and Ron Allen have assembled a series of ten essays written by an assortment of mainline Protestant writers, both parish clergy and academics. Greenhaw is president and professor of preaching at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, while Allen (a frequent contributor to Preaching) is professor of preaching and New Testament at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis.
The essays cover a variety of topics in addressing the place of preaching in the worship experience. Among the essays are: “Preaching in the Renewal of Worship in the Last Thirty Years” by Marian Young Adell, a United Methodist pastor in Dayton, Ohio; “Altar-ing the World: Community-forming Word and Worship” by Heather Murray Elkins, who teaches worship and liturgy at Drew University; and “Preaching and the Sacrament of Holy Communion” by Paul Scott Wilson, who teaches preaching and worship at Emmanuel College in Toronto.
Greenhaw writes about the use of the arts in worship, while Allen contributes an essay on worship and preaching that take place outside the traditional Sunday morning service. Other essays deal with issues such as the role of music in worship and the use of the lectionary in worship planning. I found problematic the latter essay’s critical attitude toward the “christocentrism” of the church year; while we must deal with each biblical genre with integrity, the effective Christian preacher will inevitably be “christocentric” in approaching the preaching event.
One of the most interesting articles in the book was written by a Korean pastor who discusses preaching within the cultural context of the Korean community. The essay didn’t fit with the flow of the remainder of the book in that it examined preaching in an ethnic/cultural context rather than as it relates to worship. Nevertheless, I found it interesting to learn more about the topic, and wish I had some of these insights available when I was teaching in the seminary setting and had Korean students in my classes.
Preaching in the Context of Worship is an interesting collection and makes a useful contribution to the present-day discussion of worship in the church.
William L. Self. Defining Moments. (Lima, Ohio: CSS Publishing Co., 1999). Paper, 120 pages. ISBN 0-7880-1376-9.
In the hot summer months it may be hard to think about Advent, but those preachers who use the summer to plan their preaching will find this volume useful as they consider their preaching for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany.
Self, who is pastor of the fast-growing Johns Creek Baptist Church in suburban Atlanta, takes up the lesser-used Old Testament texts to deal with critical preaching issues for this season of the year. Although using the lectionary texts for Cycle B, preachers will find these excellent sermons offer helpful insights in or out of a lectionary-based preaching program.
Those who have heard Self preach know that he is creative and imaginative in his communication, while staying true to the biblical text. Although Self observes, “Preaching is a messy and awesome task,” the sermons in this collection are the careful work of a sermonic craftsman.
Whether you read for inspiration and insight on interpreting these texts, or even if you are simply fishing for illustrations (and the book is full of good ones), you’ll find that your time with Defining Moments will be well-used moments.
Lloyd Elder and Frank R. Lewis. Pastoral Preaching – Leading from the Pulpit. (Nashville: Moench Center for Church Leadership, 1998). Notebook, 69 pages.
This interesting volume is part of a twelve-part series of workbooks for developing and renewing leadership skills in ministry. This particular edition is co-authored by Lloyd Elder, who teaches at Belmont University, and Frank Lewis, pastor of First Baptist Church in Nashville. The curriculum is distributed under the auspices of Belmont’s Moench Center for Church Leadership.
The notebook format allows a person to work through a series of basic issues in the development and presentation of the sermon. The material will be of most value to younger ministers, but the seasoned minister may also enjoy the review of foundational principles in writing and preaching strong sermons.
Two limitations hamper what could be an even more effective curriculum. First, the text does not seem to reflect awareness of more recent developments in the evangelical homiletical world. Second, the useful brief essays at the end of the book would be even better if additional ministers beyond the Southern Baptist world were included as well. Even with these two weaknesses, it is a helpful volume and could be well-used in the early training of preachers, either individually or in a classroom setting.
Serene Jones. Calvin and the Rhetoric of Piety. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995) Hardcover, 238 pages. ISBN 0-664-22070-3.
Dawn DeVries. Jesus Christ in the Preaching of Calvin and Schleirmacher. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996) Hardcover, 114 pages. ISBN 0-664-22067-3. $15.00.
Students of the history of preaching will welcome these two volumes, part of the Columbia Series in Reformed Theology. Jones, an assistant professor of theology at Yale Divinity School, examines Calvin’s use of rhetoric to inform and persuade his audience, with particular attention on the first three chapters of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion.
In the second volume, Devries — who is an associate professor of theology at Union Theological Seminary (VA) — explores the manner in which both Calvin and Schleirmacher used preaching to bring their listeners into the presence of Christ. Evangelical readers will find themselves in disagreement with DeVries in her disappointment with Calvin’s insistence that “the subject of Christology (is) the Jesus of history.” While the author affirms “Schliermacher ‘s understanding of the work of Christ makes it possible for him to decrease dramatically the number of historical claims on which faith relies,” many readers will view that as a tragic illustration of why Calvin’s influence on the church is both more profound and more helpful.
Both books offer useful insights into the life and work of key figures in the history of Christian theology. It is always good for us to remember that the most important figures in theology have tended to be, first and foremost, preachers.
William D. Watley. You Have to Face It to Fix It. (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1997) Paper, 96 pages. ISBN 0-8170-1267-2.
Because of the relative paucity of sermon books today compared to previous generations, we will always welcome collections of good sermons such as this volume by William Watley, pastor of St. James AME Church in Newark, NJ.
The eighteen sermons contained in this brief volume encourage believers to face life’s various challenges, such as enemies, fear, loss, and even success. He makes the case that, “If you are willing to face yourself, Jesus is able and willing to fix what’s wrong. He’s still in the fixing business.”
Preachers will enjoy these sermons as models of preaching that touches on the deepest needs of people.

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