Back to Baby Steps

 A review of “Biblical Preaching” by Haddon Robinson.

Every sports fan admires the greats. Basketball fans discuss the skill of Lebron James while Football fans admire Tom Brady’s Superbowl rings. Each sport has its high achievers. What is important to note about each of them, however, is their dedication to and mastery of the fundamentals. While the greats in every sport (and every profession for that matter) often break the rules, they feel free to do so only because they have already mastered the rules and are familiar with the circumstances under which the rules can acceptably and effectively be broken. In his book “Biblical Preaching”, Haddon Robinson conducts a review (or an introduction for the beginning speaker) of the basics of the art and science of preaching. This is a book on fundamentals that will be helpful and relevant to everyone who reads.

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It’s Always Storytime!

A review of the book “Squirrel Inc” by Stephen Denning

For as long as I could remember, serious communication centered around facts and our ability to share them, while stories were designed for the purposes of entertainment. Do you want to make someone laugh? Tell a story! You want to tug on your audience’s heart strings? Nothing does that quite like a story. It has been widely accepted that stories touch the heart while the overwhelming logic of the facts can change the mind. Stephen Denning is trying to change all of that.

Denning, in his book “Telling the Story” addresses the reality that logical arguments are often not as effective as we’d like them to be when it comes to persuading others. As a matter of fact, our hearers often resist logic in favor of their own cherished points of view. The influence so vital to leadership in any organization can be diluted as change is met with unnecessary resistance. The solution, according to the book, is to rely more on the power of stories to communicate the ideas that are to shape the opinions and behavior of others.

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Another Point of View

Ok. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

A certain man had two sons. The younger son asked for his inheritance and, upon receiving it, left home to go party. He went as far away as he could, spend all the money he had, and eventually fell on hard times. With his friends and his mind both gone, he takes a job feeding pigs who aren’t too keen on sharing their lunch with the hungry lad. Just as he hits rock bottom the thought occurs to him “Why don’t I just go home?” And he does. He goes home to find his father waiting, his older brother “hating”, and the community celebrating the lost son’s return.

Sound familiar?

Of course, you recognize the story by now. It’s the story of the “Prodigal Son”. You can easily identify this as a traditional rendering of the story. The facts (though paraphrased) are all there. The account flows just like it’s supposed to. You’ve heard this story, told in this way, before. Don’t look now, but that can become a problem. After all, you know what they say: “Familiarity breeds contempt”.

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More Than Meets The Eye

A review of the book “The Homiletical Plot” written by Eugene L. Lowery

With 66 books in the Bible and preachers with personalities as unique as the human fingerprint, it’s hard to imagine sermons that sound the same. And yet the problem is put on display from pulpits everywhere, each weekend, for all to see. Week after week in church after church listeners are exposed to the same stories being told in much the same way. While the content of scripture is hardly up for debate (the Prodigal Son always comes home to his father), the similar conclusions, applications and even illustrations beg the question “Can we look at this another way?”

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Some Helpful Homework…

There’s always room for improvement. The question however, is how exactly do we go about the business of getting better? Reading broadly and thinking deeply are sermon-building staples. However, most successful preachers will admit that learning from those who are effective communicators is one of the best ways to sharpen your own skills. Please don’t get confused. You are neither stealing someone else’s material or appropriating someone else’s style. The goal is to observe and adopt the best practices of effective communicators in order to develop and grow.

In my journey as a preacher and public speaker I have come across communicators that I admire. Some are more popular than others and all have their unique styles of organizing content and delivery. I have benefited from observing and learning and I believe that anyone who takes the time to study these preachers will also grow.

A few things before I continue:
This list is not exhaustive. Everyone has a favorite food, a favorite color and a convincing reason why their choice is the best. Feel free to add names to this list! The goal is not to convince you of the superiority of my selections. Rather, my aim is to select and study preaching models and mentors of your own.

I’ve categorized my favorites because, in my opinion, every speaker has their strengths and weaknesses. In my opinion some speakers are excellent at introductions but their applications leave much to be desired. On the other hand, some speakers may be geniuses at closing a sermon but their introductions may not be as strong. My categories are a way to help me. I hope they also help you.

My list stretches across denominational lines. I believe in an interdisciplinary, interdenominational approach to preaching because… why not! Inspiration and instruction can come from all walks of life. I can’t afford to miss the opportunity to sharpen my skills simply because of closed-mindedness. Neither can you.
With that being said, here are just a few of the preachers (and in some cases, sermons) I listen to and watch when I want to do my homework. Hopefully, this list inspires you to do some “helpful homework” as well.

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