My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Review: More than a Sermon: The Purpose and Practice of Christian Preaching

More than a Sermon: The Purpose and Practice of Christian Preaching More than a Sermon: The Purpose and Practice of Christian Preaching by Douglas D. Webster
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Having just completed a homiletics course, I was very interested in another book on preaching; however, from the beginning, it was very clear that as a catholic clergy, I was not the target audience here. To begin with, catholic homilies are generally tied to the readings for the day, so I really don’t have much flexibility in picking the scripture text that I want to use … it is given to me. Additionally, the order of service (aka liturgical rubrics) and also fairly strict as well … so I was down to mostly looking for tips and ideas on how to preach better. For the most part, I didn’t get that much as most of what I did get was very generic or straight appeals to emotion/motivation … the you must have a solid relationship with God/Jesus and live a spiritual and moral life … which comes across more like a “just do it” speech … in other words, I didn’t find as much of the practical advice that I was looking for … it was still decent and I did pick up concepts and ideas from the examples in the second half that should help, but a lot of it didn’t really work for me.

The chapters and sections in this work are:
Prayers for Discernment
Scripture to Sermon: Ten Steps

Part I: The Purpose of Preaching
1. More than a Sermon
2. Harder & Easier that We Imagine
3. Compelling, Not Manipulative
4. The Whole Counsel of God
5. A Lifelong Commitment
6. Life-on-Life Discipleship

Part II: The Practice of Preaching
7. Preaching Advent & Christmas Sermons
8. Preaching Lenten Sermons
9. Easter Sermons
10. Memorial Meditations
11. Wedding Meditations
12. Preaching Crisis Sermons
13. Preaching with Social Impact

Seven Theses on Good Preaching

Some of the other points that really got my attention are:

What is true for teachers is true for preachers. The word of God ought to be heard, as authentic speech, voiced out of the integrity of the disciple, stripped of religious jargon and free of clichĂ©. It is a message that issues from the preacher’s heart, mind, and soul.

Exegesis without exposition results in knowledge without wisdom, and exposition without Christ produces religion without faith. Alcántara advises pastors to “avoid the common tendency to preach a sermon that sounds like it is a running commentary on the text. People might learn a lot about the text in its context, they might acquire new information or new understanding, but they will not hear the proclamation of the good news. If you preach the text without preaching the gospel, then you have failed at both tasks.”

His sardonic quest to make life harder was directed to those who wanted to blend Christianity with the world and make it easy. The proponents of cultural Christianity sought to remove the offense of the gospel and the stigma of the cross. They wanted “to be Christians only up to a certain point.”

Either sermonic formula, whether the existential subtext sermon or the heavy-laden informational sermon, leads to the same familiar and pedantic conclusion. Come Monday morning or as early as Sunday afternoon, whatever hint of impact that was felt is conveniently forgotten as Christians go about their secular lives.

Repeated exposure to religious jargon renders the hearer impenitent and callous: “One hears and yet does not hear. One receives and yet is not helped. God’s forgiveness is not accepted but the person learns how to deal with himself gracefully. Forgiveness is taken into one’s own hands.”

Martin Luther likened the Old Testament to Christ’s swaddling clothes and the manger in which Christ was laid. […] All the work that went into Israel’s postexilic period was God’s way of building a cradle for his ultimate revelation.

Christian hope is anchored in four gospel realities: 1. the parousia—Jesus’s final coming; 2. the Paraclete—Jesus’s gift of the Holy Spirit; 3. the passion—Jesus’s death and resurrection; 4. the presence—Jesus’s abiding fellowship.

Our reluctance to weigh in on important social issues such as pandemics and racial reconciliation suggests that preaching is focused mainly on individualistic spiritual concerns. Apart from a few notably important issues such as abortion and gay marriage, pastors seem to practice self-censorship. Pastors are silent on many issues that affect their congregations, such as public health, economics, poverty, politics, creation care, climate change, and guns.

Many sincere Christians fear that they are losing their country, but I am afraid they will eventually realize that their power tactics and shrewd efforts have caused serious harm to the Christian witness.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#MoreThanASermon #NetGalley

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.