Monday, September 2, 2013

"One Year to Better Preaching" by David Overdorf: A Review

Left unsharpened, tools grow dull. So do preachers. Like a lumberjack who heaves a blunt blade against a stubborn oak, preachers across the world heave murky, anemic sermons across the rims of their pulpits toward listeners who are about as eager as the stubborn tree. When tools lose their edge, progress stalls, effectiveness wanes, and frustration escalates. If only the lumberjack (and the preachers) would periodically pause from the strain to sharpen their tools. (9)

Regardless of how many years one has been preaching it is imperative we continue to grow and work on our preaching. Key to this is learning from other preachers and investing in helpful resources, especially books. I confess that I have been lacking in the latter. I, therefore, recently sat down and read the helpful book One Year to Better Preaching: 52 Exercises to Hone Your Skills by David Overdorf (Kregel, 2013).

The book is pretty straightforward consisting of 52 exercises, one for each week of the year, for the preacher. Each chapter consists of what the exercise is, why it is important, practical helps on how to improve one's preaching in the area, and some final testimonies of those whose preaching was improved as a result. Each chapter is brief, usually between 5-8 pages, is easy to follow and understand. It is clear that the author genuinely desires for his audience, obviously intended for current and future preachers, to grow in their preaching.

In review, I want highlight a few of the exercises that I am personally making a focus in my own preaching. A number of chapters emphasize feedback and groups. The author encourages the reader to welcome feedback from both members and from other pastors and professors. That is enforced in seminary where every sermon in class is critiqued by both the professor and the other students and since those days I have failed to continue that habit. Beyond that, however, the author encourages pastors to commission a sermon prayer group (exercise 1) and collaborate with other preachers (exercise 19) which has really gotten my attention. I have since brainstormed a number of ways I can personally do this. I want to encourage and be encouraged by other nearby pastors.

Another important exercise for me in the book is his exhortation to show, don't tell (exercise 6). Going forward I am wanting to evaluate how I deliver illustration to see if I fail here. Do I utilize good storytelling skills (listen to a storyteller is exercise 9) in my preaching either in my delivery of narrative and parabolic texts or when giving an illustration?

Other exercises worth noting include, first, encourage texting during your sermon (exercise 31). I appreciated his words here, but it needs to go beyond texting to including social media like Twitter and Facebook. He also encourages readers to swap pulpits (exercise 38) which is something I have looked into doing.

More could be said about the book and I would recommend this book and others like it to preachers. It is simple and practical. The author does not develop a theology of preaching, like many other books, but is concerned primarily with the practice of preaching. I have a lot to learn and David Overdorf has provided a helpful resources for preachers like me.

Preach the Word!

This book was given to me courtesy of Kregel Publications for the purpose of this review.

For more:
"The Hardest Sermons You'll Ever Have to Preach": A Recommendation
Some Things Never Change: Origen on the Frustration of Preaching
The Preacher in Black: Why Every Pastor Should Listen to Johnny Cash
Wanted: Longsuffering Pastors
"Why Expositional Preaching is a Bad Idea”: A Lecture by R. Albert Mohler Jr.
"The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther" by Steven Lawson: A Review
"Preach the Word": A Sermon Preached by Alistair Begg
The Consequences of Non-expositional Preaching," by John MacArthur
A Pedstal For the Cross: Spurgeon on Preaching
We Are Not Professionals: Martin Luther's Warning To Ministers
Honoring God through Edifying Preaching by John MacArthur
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