Hershael W. York & Bert Decker
Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003.
Hardcover, 288 pages, $21.99. ISBN 0-8054-2623-X.
This volume is actually two books in one. Tucked in the middle of the book is a brief treatment for developing and structuring a sermon or speech based on the Decker Grid System. (Decker teaches communication concepts to business executives and such.) I won’t explain it all to you, except that it involves lots of post-it notes. Some preachers will find this to be an insightful and helpful model for developing an effective sermon; others will shake their heads in wonder. Either way, it’s just a small part of a longer and significantly more valuable book which predominantly represents York’s contribution.
The rest of the book is an excellent and practical discussion of preaching. York makes the case for preaching that is thoroughly biblical – the book presumes an expository approach – yet is lively and relevant in connecting with the lives of listeners. At one point he refers to a letter from a critic of exposition who said that it is simplistic, lacks illustrations, and inevitably is “dry, even boring.” York responded, “Your objections are not to expository preaching at all. You object to bad preaching.”
York argues that authentic exposition involves application as well as explanation; it must be rooted in scripture, yet it must touch the lives of people. He observes, “The goal of our preaching should be engaging exposition. The preacher of the Word should not settle for being a commentator or a communicator. His passion must be to preach the Word in such a way that he accurately teaches the meaning of the text and leads his audience to discover its implications for their life situations so that they respond in obedience and become more like Christ as a result.”
Building on that purpose, York describes the approach we must take to scripture – reminding us that “preaching is not from within the preacher, but it emanates from the text through the preacher.” He points out the flexibility of form and approach that is available under the heading of “expository preaching” and discusses how to approach and deal with the biblical text in preparing sermons. He offers helpful examples and illustrations relating to the outlining and development of sermons.
The book includes an excellent chapter on illustrating the sermon (a portion of that chapter appeared in the July-August issue of Preaching), along with practical observations on introducing and concluding the sermon in a way that provides maximum effectiveness. The concluding section of the book offers solid and helpful insights on sermon delivery. A sample sermon is included as an example of the approach discussed in the book.
Whether or not you adopt the “grid system” identified in this volume, Preaching With Bold Assurance offers a wealth of ideas, illustrations and encouragement that make it a worthy addition to any pastor’s library.