Review: Preaching by the Book

Preaching by the Book

Preaching by the Book (Hobbs College Library), R. Scott Pace, (Heath A. Thomas editor). Nashville: B & H Academic, 2018.

Summary: A step by step guide to preparing and giving messages rooted in biblical texts in a slim volume.

There are numerous guides to preaching, most which are both inspiring and perhaps a little daunting. What caught my attention is the straightforward character of this little book. I could see a person, perhaps faced with his or her first sermon, working through this book in preparing to preach.

First of all, the author outlines his theology of preaching that affirms that the purpose of preaching is that the Word of God, expounded faithfully by ministers of God trusting in the work of the Spirit of God results in the people of God hearing, worshiping, and obeying God. Critical in this process is that sermons arise from and be based in the text of scripture. The remainder of the book unpacks a process by which this is done, which is outlined in seven steps:

1.  Begin with prayer.

  • Prepare your heart.
  • Pray for help.

2.  Read the passage.

  • Read it casually.
  • Read it carefully.

3.  Discover the point.

  • Summarize the main idea
  • Simplify the main idea.

4.  Study the parts.

  • Study the supporting concepts.
  • Study the significant words.

5.  Identify the precepts.

  • Discern the theological truths.
  • Discern the doctrinal truths.
  • Discern the spiritual truths.

6.  Apply the principles.

  • Evaluate our personal condition.
  • Formulate our practical response.

7.  Develop our plan.

  • Construct our sermon outline.
  • Craft our sermon points.

Chapters 2 through 4 elaborate these seven steps. Then Chapters 5 through 7 help with fleshing out the sermon outline into a message that may be preached. It begins with Introductions and emphasizes brevity and clarity that whets people’s appetites, as well as providing a varying diet. Chapter 6 on Illustrations proposes the various kinds of illustrations that might be used and pitfalls to avoid including the overuse of illustrations, and using yourself or your family excessively in illustrations. Chapter 7, reflecting the Baptist origins of this work, discusses Invitations. This is often neglected in other traditions, where a passage is taught, but no response to it is invited in the context of the service.

One subject that I would have liked to seen addressed in this section would be the question of whether one ought write out sermons, preach from notes, or work from memory. It seems that it would be helpful for many to talk about how not to be tied to a text or written notes and yet avoid the wandering and rabbit trails that may accompany extemporaneous preaching. Perhaps the author assumed that preachers figure out what works best for them over time, which seems to be the case, but this is little help for the person starting out.

That aside, what Pace offers in a handy format is a guide that really can serve as a guide throughout the process of preparing a message from a biblical text. He distills a life of preaching wisdom into a concise, slim volume easily taken along with one’s Bible, study tools, and laptop into the study, or coffee shop. Much like a travel guide organized with the traveler in mind, this little guide can be pulled out throughout one’s preparation to preach to inspire and to give sound direction.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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