Millar, Gary and Phil Campbell. Saving Eutychus: How to Preach God’s Word and Keep People Awake. Kingsford NSW, Austrailia: Matthias Media 2013. 176 pp. $16.99.
In Saving Eutychus, authors Gary Millar (Principal of Queensland Theological College) and Phil Campbell (Preaching Professor of Queensland Theological College) offer a brief, yet helpful work on preaching. Central to their book is the assertion that a preacher need not choose between biblical fidelity and preaching in an engaging manner. Rather, they believe there is a manner of preaching that is both faithful to the text of Scripture, and interesting enough to keep people awake long enough to hear it. They are not merely lecturers, but practitioners as well, who understand that, “our challenge is not just to avoid being deadly dull. Our challenge is to be faithful, accurate, and clear as we cut to the heart of the biblical text and apply what God is really saying in a way that cuts to the hearts of people who are really listening” (14).
Millar and Campbell are committed to expositional preaching, or at least their own version thereof. Millar writes, “the key to preaching… is to make the message of the text obvious” (29). Taking a cue from Haddon Robinson’s Biblical Preaching, their preaching centers on the identification and explanation on a single main idea communicated in the text. In order to discern this main idea, the authors emphasize the vast importance of avoiding the temptation to moralize the text and, “lose sight of the gospel of what Jesus has done and replace it with a whole lot of concrete and persuasive and guilt-inducing applications about what we need to do” (70). Crucial to this endeavor is a healthy understanding of the overarching biblical narrative and a robust biblical theology. Only by understanding the overall tapestry of Scripture, can preachers maintain the vital distinction between what is being required of us and what has been accomplished in Christ.
Both authors utilize a sermon script rather than detailed preaching outline, and suggest that this method provides the best means to communicate their message deliberately and with absolute clarity. This method prevents both the tendency of some who use no notes, or merely an outline, to wander aimlessly during the sermon, as well as the equally dangerous propensity to read a script woodenly. In fact, the authors recommend, what they call natural scripting, that is, “writing exactly the words you’d naturally speak, exactly the way you’d naturally say them” (45).
This little book has much to offer pastors who find themselves struggling to preach sermons that visibly affect their congregations. The importance of understanding the biblical narrative, and where each passage fits therein, is crucial to faithful exposit God’s Word. However, it is in their exposition that they fall short.
The authors recommend preaching a central idea derived from the preaching text. The danger of such preaching is that it diminishes the impact of the actual language and words breathed out by the Holy Spirit in the text of Scripture. This danger is evidenced in both of the authors’ sample sermons. Each sermon had one big idea, yet ignored the text itself in order to preach the “gist” of the text.
Such preaching is not unique to these authors, but rather is indicative of a generation of expository preaching that ultimately fails to deliver the text. This method is careful to emphasize the importance of each word used by the preacher to communicate his message to the congregation, yet fails to recognize the infinitely greater importance of the exact words used by the Holy Spirit to communicate to the readers of Holy Scripture. Such a failure is unacceptable for those entrusted to faithfully communicate God’s Word.
Saving Eutychus is a useful little book for preachers looking for something to assist them in faithfully communicating God’s Word in a manner that affects the hearts of their hearers. Though weak in terms of defining the preaching task, its strength lies in the method used by the authors to communicate the message.
Gary Millar and Phil Campbell, Saving Eutychus: How to Preach God’s Word and Keep People Awake
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