One Year to Better Preaching: 52 Exercises to Hone Your Skills. By Daniel Overdorf. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2013. 319 pages. Paperback, $17.99.
The most public aspect of any pastor’s ministry is his preaching. Ask the typical Sunday morning attendee to identify the primary task of the pastor and he will inevitably direct your attention to the sermon. However many hospital visits, committee meetings, potlucks and Bible studies the pastor attends during the week, the sermon stands as the centerpiece of his pastoral duty.
Biblically, the pastor’s task is defined along similar lines. The needs of those in the community of faith should not distract the pastor from his most important responsibility. The apostles directed the church to select deacons for the specific purpose that their labors would free the apostles to focus on the most important tasks set before them – those of prayer and the ministry of the Word.
Yet, once the minister has completed his seminary training, this task often receives very little attention. It becomes something the preacher does, but it is rarely a task that the pastor works on developing further. He may attend a conference or an occasional training event, but little can be accomplished to improve his preaching on a sustained, regular basis.
With One Year to Better Preaching, Daniel Overdorf hopes to fill that gap by equipping pastors with a resource to improve their preaching. The book is a collection of 52 exercises intended upon developing and honing this important task. The exercises address eight general categories skills: prayer, Bible interpretation, understanding listeners, sermon construction, illustration and application, word crafting, the preaching event, and sermon evaluation.
Ideally, the reader would select an exercise each week in order to sharpen their preaching skill. However, the chapters are divided and classified in such a way that the preacher has the option of selecting only the exercises that correspond with his particular weaknesses.
The exercises themselves cover a wide-swath of emphases, some of which not every pastor will take upon himself. One chapter recommends that the preacher recommend that the congregation text during the sermon. Another exercise recommends utilizing a different sermon form for the sake of variety. Yet another still suggests using dialogue in the sermon, either through interview or panel discussion.
Frankly, some of the suggestions would make this reviewer uncomfortable and would undermine his understanding of the definition of preaching. Dialogue and interview may suffice for illustration, but one must be careful to define preaching as the communication of God’s Word, and not the experiences and wit and wisdom of one not bound to the text. Preaching involves proclamation, or else it ceases to be preaching.
The sum of the exercises say little about preaching and instead focus on sermon preparation and delivery. This is where the book shines and will serve pastors in the future. And these exercises give me adequate reason to recommend it.
I received this book free from the publisher through the Kregel book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.