Monday, July 15, 2013

Book Review - Saving Eutychus

Who hasn't nodded off during a sermon? At some point, if we spend enough time in church services, we are going to find ourselves fighting off sleep. If our drowsiness is due to some unforeseen circumstance in our life-an emergency, over-time at work, a delayed flight-then I think this is understandable and even acceptable. But if the Sandman comes for a visit because the sermon is dull and dreary, then there is a problem, a problem that authors Gary Millar and Phil Campbell would like to remedy. That is, the authors of Saving Eutychus would like to do just that, save Eutychus, and every other sermon-listener, from sermon induced slumber.

As someone who has had the opportunity to preach on several occasions, and who will be preaching quite a bit more in the coming months, I was very interested in reading this book on preaching particularly since it had been endorsed by the likes of D. A. Carson, Alistair Begg, and Bryan Chapell. This book was also appealing to me because it was short. I am always intrigued by reading a book that is both concise and competent.

Millar and Campbell have written a very helpful, instructive, and encouraging book on writing, delivering, and improving on sermons. In short order they cover a wide variety of topics related to preaching and do so in a manner that is humourous and serious.

The book begins with an appeal to the preacher, or would-be-preacher, to avail themselves and their listeners, and anyone else they can cajole, to pray for the preaching of God’s Word. This is a great reminder that ultimately we rely on God for an effective preaching ministry.

The book then introduces what effective preaching is, and we learn that for these authors expository preaching is the surest and most faithful means of preaching in a manner that changes people’s hearts.

Both authors preach from manuscripts and argue for their use in the pulpit. They deliver ten tips for clarity in preaching; these are very powerful and simple ideas that can be implemented to great effect.
The authors continue to provide helpful, practical insight on the importance of finding and focusing on a sermon’s big idea. They elaborate on the importance of preaching a passage of Scripture’s big idea or controlling theme, and then provide instruction on how one can determine the big idea. Again, these concepts are very useful and their ability to demonstrate how these ideas are applied makes this book extremely practical. And the big idea leads the authors to discuss the application part of a sermon, offering techniques for making this section of the sermon effective.

The book addresses how one preaches from the Old Testament in a very instructive and edifying chapter. Focusing on how to get the gospel out of an Old Testament passage, the authors begin with proper understanding of the passage, move to locating the passage in the context of the whole Bible, and finish by  a call to preach the gospel in a fresh and invigorating fashion. Their succinct explanations of these various steps tackle a tough topic briefly and thoroughly.

The book moves on by informing on delivery techniques as well as the importance of receiving and implementing constructive, critical feedback on your sermons. This book remains in the realm of the practical by delivering tips and functional ideas. I found the chapter on the necessity of critique very motivating; a solid reminder to seek growth and improvement in our preaching.

The final chapter walks the reader through the process of writing an actual sermon. This play-by-play building of a sermon, with commentary, gives the reader insight into a very dynamic process. I found this very intriguing and I think it will aid the preacher to see how the author processes and adjusts his sermon as he works through it.

The book ends with two appendices offering very practical tools for preachers. The first appendix is several real-life examples of sermon critique with actual sermons. The authors clearly value this aspect of reflection, and witnessing it demonstrates the value of feedback. The second appendix offers various resources from the book. The sermon feedback form is one I definitely plan to incorporate into my preaching.

Overall I found this a very helpful book. Its strengths include clarity, conciseness, practicality, humour, and the encouragement that these two authors offer by presenting their life and experiences with the reader. Anyone who preaches or will be preaching, or perhaps those interested in the process of sermon writing and delivery, will benefit from reading this book. And the benefits will multiply to the listeners of the sermons, and maybe even prevent a Eutychusian tragedy resulting from a snoozing audience.

Here is a brief trailer for the book:

1 comment:

  1. Jude,

    Thanks for such a thorough review.

    Shaun Tabatt
    Cross Focused Reviews