I Love to Tell the Old. . .Old, Old Story: a book review

Preaching from a narrative text is different from preaching Paul’s epistles. In Preaching Old Testament Narratives, Benjamin Walton (professor, former pastor and president of Preaching Works) focuses on the skills and hermeneutical approach needed to preach from Old Testament narratives well.  Sensitive to story, Walton shows preachers how to craft a message which takes into account the genre and connec9780825442582ts with the congregation.

Walton likes three letter abbreviations and his methodological approach involves a series of them. First, he advises preaching from a CUT (complete unit of thought). This is roughly equivalent to what exegesis books and homiletics professors mean when they say, “determine the pericope,” but Walton observes that CUTs are larger  for narrative texts (perhaps a chapter or two) than say your typical epistle pericope (34).  Once you determine your CUT, you interpret it with an eye for its OTM (original theological message)—what the passage was communicating about God to its original hearers. Once you figure that out, you explore how it speaks to people today. This is your THT (take home truth). Finally, you depict the THTs with PPAs (picture painting applications) which make the truth of God’s word vivid for congregants context (165).  Along the way Walton offers great tips on how to craft and deliver a compelling message (i.e. writing the sermon and delivering it), and connecting Old Testament narrative to Christ’s redemptive work.

There is a lot that is commendable about this book. Walton’s approach is similar to Haddon Robinson’s Big Idea preaching but he is more sensitive to narrative than Robinson. Narrative texts make their points implicitly and indirectly and sometimes take a couple of chapters to do it.  If you are going to preach story well, it is helpful to have a sense of how story works. Walton is aware of this, helping preachers attend to the story in their exegesis and their delivery.

This doesn’t mean that this a hermeneutically heavy handed book. There are footnotes to Shimeon Bar-Efrat and Tremper Longman discussing some distinctives of the genre, but Walton never delves too deep into the characteristics of Hebrew narrative (i.e. doublets, type scenes, reiteration of events, etc). His approach is accessible to non-scholars, though is respectful of the interpretive gifts of literary approaches to the Bible. There is more to be said about narrative interpretations, but Walton gives enough of the goods to get young preachers on their way.

He also has tons of practical advice of how to craft and deliver sermons. A lot of what he commicates can be gleaned from other preaching books, but Walton focuses on how to do this with a narrative text. He doesn’t advise three-point sermons, alliteration or bullet points. Instead he helps preachers pay attention to the shape of story, and the way it communicates its theological message and take home truths (without devolving into moralism).

I give this book four stars and recommend it for young preachers and any preacher who wants to hone their craft. I love narrative but picked up some helpful stuff here. I give this book four stars.

Note: I received this book from Kregel Academic in exchange for my honest review

How Preaching Participates in the Mission of God: a book review

Books on preaching are of two varieties (at least!). Some books focus on method and creative presentations for the preaching moment, others focus on the content and purpose of preaching. Books on the Missional church follow the same pattern. Some books are pragmatic, offering ideas about ‘new ways of being church’ in the community. Other authors focus on the conceptual framework of ministry shaped by our relationship with the missional God. Of course practical authors hope they are rooted in good theology and conceptual authors see practical application of their ideas, but they have different starting points.

When Patrick Johnson, pastor at Frenchtown Presbyterian Church and adjunct professor at Princeton Theological Seminary decided to tackle both topics–preaching and the missional church–he tackled the conceptual side of both, offering a theology of preaching and mission. The Mission of Preaching: Equipping the Community for Faithful Witness is conversant with the discipline of homiletics and  the missional thinkers who have framed the contemporary discussion, people like Newbigin, Bosch, Barth and the Gospel in Our Culture Network (GOCN). He  is thoughtful about how preaching serves God’s mission and where it fits in the larger context of the church’s witness of Christ. Johnson is suggestive of ways to be more intentionally communal and formational through preaching.

Johnson’s four chapters represent several conversations about preaching and mission. In the first three chapters, Johnson discusses preaching as witness, the witness of Christian community and the witness of missional congregations.. Chapter four forms a nexus, connecting the early conversations and offers a ‘missional homiletic of witness.’

Chapter one examines three different approaches to preaching, from three authors, who each see the function of preaching as witness: The Witness of Preaching by Thomas Long, Preaching as Testimony by Anna Carter Florence and Confessing Jesus Christ: Preaching in a Postmodern World by David Lose. Each of these authors argue that witness is the most appropriate way to understand what a preacher does, though they diverge in their theological commitments, assumptions and points of emphasis. Long places witness alongside other images of preaching, outlines how the preacher bears witness, and places preaching within ‘the context of Christian community’ (4!), Florence repositions homiletic authority on ‘the structure of testimony’ (as opposed to education, ordination and training. (50). Lose offers an analysis of the epistemological challenges to preaching from post-modernity, adds to the idea witness the concept of confession (communal understanding o the gospel) and places preaching within the context of the church’s multifaceted witness (61-62). Johnson closes the chapter with six questions raised by his examination of these three authors and highlights their various answers: (1) What or who is the object of the preachers witness?; (2) By what criteria should one assess the faithfulness of the preacher’s witness?; What kind of witness is scripture?; What of ordination?; In what ways does the congregation bear witness?; and How does the witness of the preacher relate to the witness of the congregation?

Chapter two examines the witness of the congregation through the lens of Barth’s Church Dogmatics (IV,3.2). Barth saw bearing witness as the function of all that the church does. He therefore placed preaching under the larger category of Witness. The church witnesses through praise, preaching, instruction, evangelism, mission, theology, prayer, the cure of the souls, producing exemplary lives, service, prophetic action and fellowship (96-103).  Johnson observes that for Barth, “witness is not a way of preaching, but preaching is a way of witness” (103). Barth helps missional preachers move beyond their individual role in preaching to seeing how the act of preaching connects to the mission of the church and calls the church to orient itself toward the world it is called to reach.

Chapter three focuses on the witness of missional congregations, using the patterns of missional faithfulness described in Treasure in Clay Jars edited by Lois Barret for the GOCN (Eerdmans, 2004). The eight patterns are: discerning missional vocation, biblical formation and discipleship, taking risks as the contrast community, demonstrating God’s intent for the world, dependence on the Holy Spirit, pointing toward the reign of God, exercising missional authority. Johnson walks through each of these patterns drawing out the implications of how missional preaching helps contribute to and give shape to each of these elements in the life of the church.

Finally chapter four draws all of these various conversations together. This is longest chapter of the book and in it, Johnson gives his definition of a ‘missional homiletic of witness.’ He begins under the sub-heading ‘preaching’ and gradually adds more detail until his heading offers a full definition of what he is calling for:

Preaching Confesses Jesus Christ Through a Missional Interpretation of Scripture . . . to Equip the  Community for Witness in the World. 

Johnson builds on the thoughts of all the thinkers he previous profiled, as well as interacting with other recent proposals for missional preaching (such as Al Tizon’s Missional Preaching).

Johnson believes that the preacher has a crucial role in aiding and equipping the church for mission; however, his conclusion draws out several practical ideas from his study. First, he urges congregations to take seriously the idea of communal preaching (a shared ministry of preaching in the church). Because preaching is about bearing witness to Christ’s ongoing (and finished) work, the ordained ministry is not the authoritative voice for the community but one who points to Jesus and his mission. This would mean that one of the tasks of the preacher would be to nurture other preachers in the community, believing that no, one person has all the necessary gifts and insights to prepare the whole church for holistic mission (219). Secondly Johnson focuses on the necessary focus on Jesus Christ as the content of preaching, and a missional hermeneutic of scripture which explores God’s mission for the world (220,221). Johnson also reiterates again how preaching is just one component of the church’s multiform witness.

As a solo pastor and primary preacher at a small church, I found much of what Johnson says insightful and suggestive. I believe in the necessity of biblical preaching and think it is formative and missional but I have been uneasy with the way the preacher’s voice (on any given Sunday, my voice) is privileged over and against others in the congregation. Seeing with Johnson (and Barth) that preaching is just one aspect of the church’s witness is helpful . I also appreciate the hermeneutic lens of mission–reading the Bible with an eye for God’s mission and seeking ways to exhort the congregation to participate in it. Probably the most challenging aspect of Johnson’s proposal for my context, is the communal preaching component. I think I agree with Johnson that this is a good goal to move to, but the culture of my church has been that the called pastor delivers the message. Sermons from occasional members of the congregation or visitors are the exception rather than the rule. A good amount of groundwork would need to precede a move in that direction.

This is a demanding read, examining a large swath of practical theology and systematics. It obviously will be useful reading for a preaching class or seminar at a seminary level; yet this book will also be read fruitfully by pastors, preachers and lay ministers. I give this book four and a half stars and recommend it for anyone who cares about the mission and proclamation of the church.

Notice of material connection: I received this book from IVP Academic in exchange for my honest review.

Preaching Preparation with Accuracy: a book review

I like reading preaching books. As a regular, but rookie preacher, I know I have lots to learn. Preaching books provide me with ideas on how to engage the text and present it to a congregation. Preaching with Accuracy: Finding Christ Centered Big Ideas for Biblical Preaching is a new book from Kregel Ministry on how to preach messages that are faithful to the Bible’s text and intent. Author Randal Pelton is a pastor and professor at Lancaster Bible College and Gordon Conwell. Pelton pairs Haddon Robinson’s ‘Big Idea’ approach with Bryan Chapell’s Christ Centered canonical approach. The result is a ‘homiletic hybrid’ which allows selected passages of scripture to control meaning while placing it in the larger frame of the Bible’s unity and the understading of Christ (13).

The seven chapters of Pelton’s book provide a hands-on approach to selecting and exegeting the preaching text with attention to its main idea, its function in the wider context of the individual book or genre, and its place in the canon–the larger biblical story. The first three chapters address how to approach the text. In the first chapter Pelton makes the case of the expositional (rather than topical) approach to preaching. In chapter two, he urges us towards locating the ‘big idea’ from the passage and warns that preaching the ‘little ideas’ skews our understanding. In chapter three he advises us on how to select and ‘cut the text’ (decide the limits of the pericope and whether or not our passage has a ‘big idea’ of its own or if it is borrowing from the immediate context).

The rest of the book describes his method. Chapter four exlains how to locate the ‘textbi’ (textual big idea). Pelton walks through how to identify the big idea in various genres (and invites practical hands-on practice in relationship to particular texts). Chapter five examines the ‘conbi’ (contextual big idea)–how our text functions within the larger context of the book it belongs to.  As with the text, Pelton gives helpful advice on how to determine how passage functions in its peculiar genre (i.e. a story fits into a larger narrative, laws and legal material, geneologies are also encased in narrative, epistle texts are a link in the larger argument, etc). Chapter six explores the ‘canbi’ (canonical big idea)–how this work functions within the God’s story (i.e. how it relates to the story of Jesus, the canon’s center). Pelton’s final chapter explores how to use these different levels in crafting a sermon with an eye toward application.

Pelton’s argument is that accurate preaching happens when we attend to the meaning of the text, its context, and then its larger canonical frame. The order is important. By attending to the literal-historical meaning of the text first, Pelton guards our canonical/theological interpretation from devolving to a shallow allegory with little resemblance to the plain-meaning of the text. But he also helps us connect the dots to the larger biblical story. I think in practice it doesn’t work as neatly as Pelton describes. Sometimes our understanding of canon or our wider theological commitments drives our understanding of an individual text (in ways we may not be aware!). Still I appreciate his emphasis on making sure what we are preaching is the passage’s main idea (not our own).

This is not a book about ‘preaching.’ This is a book about the work preachers do before sitting down to craft their sermon. Pelton has little to say here about the preaching moment. He doesn’t address the sermon form (other than a couple of paragraphs on thinking of an introduction for your sermons). His focus is almost solely on sermon content rather than delivery. I think that emphasis is appropriate but it does indicate the limits of this book. If you are looking for a book which gets you to think about how to preach the Bible, attentive to the text, to its larger context and the gospel, there is a lot here for you to chew on. If you are looking for a book which will aid you to proclaim in relevant, creative ways, you will be disappointed with what you find here. That is a different topic altogether.

Still for what it does and is, it is pretty good. I read through and implemented his approach as I prepared my Sunday sermon this week. It didn’t change how I approached my text significantly but it did help me organize some of my ideas. I give this book four stars.

Notice of material connection; I received this book from Kregel Academic in exchange for my honest review.

Preaching for Listeners Instead of Readers: a book review

Preaching is an oral act. It involves climbing into a pulpit (or at least standing before a congregation) and declaring God’s Word. Strangely though, sermon preparation has become increasingly a literary act. Since the dawn of the printing press and proliferation of print media, our reading of texts (and the Bible) have become increasingly private and individualized. This has had an effect on how sermons are crafted and delivered. In many churches, sermons are read and performed and do not deviate one iota from the script. Sermons are theologically precise, but often stilted in their delivery.

Dave McCellan urges the recovery of ancient homiletic practices. This would mean preparing sermons with the oral patterns of listeners in mind (rather than a literary outline which appeals to readers). In Preaching By Ear:  Speaking God’s Truth from the Inside Out, McCellan draws on the insights of ancient authors like Augustine,  Aristotle and Marcus Fabius Quintilianus and the contemporary historian, theologian and cultural critic Walter Ong (1912-2003). It is McCellan’s conviction that recovering oral patterns for preaching will transform us as preaches, and as churches and that preaching in this way is more responsive to the Word–reading it and proclaiming it in the way it was intended to be read and proclaimed.

In part one, McClellan begins with a focus on preparing the preacher. Chapter one relates an anecdote about McClellan preaching a manuscripted sermon in the ‘Big Church’ (he was a youth pastor speaking to the main congregation).  His friend’s feedback to him was that his sermon was good but didn’t ring authentic. It sounded stilted. He concludes that extemporaneous sermons allow for the greatest amount of authenticity and vulnerability in the speaker. He then grounds his argument for extemporaneous preaching in ancient writings. From Augustine (chapter two), McClellan argues that we should be ‘theologians’ who sit under the Word. He encourages us to deepen our understanding of passages and how they relate to others and what they say to us. McClellan uses Aristotle’s Rhetoric to explore the proper ethos in communication–speaking with personal character in an authentic voice (chapter three). In chapter four, Quintillian provides the most profound lessons about oral communication and preaching. McClellan says that this ancient rhetorician calls us preachers to moral character formation. He also has a method for improving our rhetoric (ccuriosity constant oral reading and writing, and casual debates with fellow preachers and small groups.

In part two, McClellan makes the theological case for the primacy of the spoken word in proclamation and walks us through how to prepare and deliver an extemporaneous sermon. It is in this section that McClellan delves into the work of Walter Ong, Ong’s thesis in his classic Orality and Literacy was that with the dawn of the printing press, fruitful practices of oral culture fell by the wayside. He identified nine characteristics of oral speech: imprecise, redundant, tradition driven, quotidian, acquainted with suffering. participatory, united in purpose, and comfortable with stories (91-96).  In contrast, literary approaches are precise, follow a logical sequence but are not reliant on the same devices for capturing and communicating shared memory. McClellan than delineates the implications for preparing an extemporaneous preaching.  One of the most profound insights on how oral preparation, invites communal preparation and allows for conversation which feed into and reinforce discipleship (129).

My push back would be that my preaching teacher manuscripted everything in his preaching preparation but in the preaching act was as free to move off script and take a new direction, often depart from his page to connect with the congregation or respond to the winds of the Spirit. He also wrote his manuscript with the spoken word in mind (short phrases, redundancy, internal summary). I think many preachers are sensitive to the dynamics that McClellan describes, even if their approach is more literary than what he commends.

McClellan’s approach is most fruitful for practitioners of expository sermons. He advocates listening to the text, learning to place it, inhabiting it and preparing a storied outline to share its truths. Topical preachers will find this sort of preparation difficult. I personally lean in a more expository and extemporaneous direction (though I still preach topically and from a manuscript when I feel it’s warranted). I am still processing how to best use McClellan’s insights in my own preaching but he does validate some of my own homiletic practice. I give this book four stars. ★★★★

Thank you to Weaver Books and Cross Focused Reviews for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Preaching in an Age of Distraction: a book revie. . .hey what’s that?

We live in a frenetic age.  We hussle from one event to another and fill every waking moment with stuff. A thousand voices scream for our attention and they have it, though not for long: our cell phones ring and buzz with new calls and texts, email beckons us, Facebook, Twitter and (true confessions) Candy Crush. Beyond that we are preoccupied by the proliferation of choices in the market, demands at work or at home and relationships. When we do sit and think for a moment, our minds pull us in a thousand directions. Unfortunately for the would-be-preacher, our quiet moments often come during the twenty-odd minutes when they attempt to deliver their Sunday morning sermon.

J. Ellsworth Kalas argues that though ‘our age’ is peculiarly prone to some of these distractions this is not a new problem. Adam and Eve allowed an intruder to distract them from their work in the garden of Eden. We’ve been distracted eve since. Kalas is senior professor of homiletics at Asbury Theological seminary and has written a book exploring the nature of distraction and its effect on the preaching moment. Preaching in the Age of Distraction examines the peculiar distractions of congregations (and preachers!) and what resources we have to combat them.

This is not really a ‘how to’ book. Kalas doesn’t have a formula for delivering whimsical sermons which grip the congregation. Instead he shares from decades of experience as preacher and professor and draws heavily on his Evangelical heritage (especially in a Wesleyan key). And this book is full of practical insights for anyone climbing into the pulpit.

Preaching in the Age of Distraction divides into ten chapters. Here is a look at the book in skeletal form: Chapter one and two discuss the distractedness of our age (and others). Chapter three discusses the internal distractions that preachers bring with them into the pulpit, and chapter four describes some of the causes of the congregation’s distractions.  Chapter five discusses the benefits born out of distraction. Namely, Kalas sees the distractiveness of our age as a catalyst to strive for greater homiletic quality. Chapter six argues that excellence acts as a counter-force against  the problem of distractions. Chapter seven and eight unpack how to craft  sermons creatively and how to find your preaching style (or the style that best appeals to your context). But lest you think that Kalas is focused on ‘technique,’ chapter nine argues for the importance of sermon content. The best way to hold a congregations attention is to have something worth saying and there is nothing more worth saying than the Gospel. Finally, in chapter ten Kallas says that the preacher’s ‘secret resource’ stems from the care she has for the congregation.

I really liked several things about Kalas’s book. First of all, I think he names the problem of distraction incisively and a clear sense of the purpose of preaching.  He states:

Those of us who preach, teach or write are in constant battle on the field of distractions .We are engaged in the struggle for the souls of humankind: we compete daily for their time, their attention, their feelings and eventually theri commitment and conduct. For us, distraction is not just a personal problem with which we, like the rest of our race, must contend. It is much more, because of our calling and because of the talents we hope we possess, we must enter the distractions competition.We’re not satisfied that the race should go by default to those who have the largest budgets the best polling data or the most sophisticated facilities. We feel compelled to make our case because we believe that, quite simply it must be made (18-9).

As this passage makes clear, Kalas has a high view of preaching and the pastor’s role in speaking truth in the midst of this distracted age.

Secondly, I think he offers many practical insights on crafting and creating good sermons. The book is full of suggestions (from Kalas and from other ministers whose quotations pepper the text). Kalas suggests attention to our context, attention to scripture, and our craft. He also describes disciplines which will help train us into people with a broad appeal (such as reading poetry and fiction-p. 74-5).  In the preaching moment, he gives suggestions on how to make sermons more interact and involve congregants more in the process.

Finally I really appreciated his final chapter. In it Kalas urges that pastors foster connections with their congregation through regular conversations and pastoral care (152) and pulpit vulnerability, where as pastors we can admit our own sinfulness (158).  Long ago Aristotle observed that an effective public speaker  had logos (thoughtful content), ethos (moral character) and pathos (care for his audience). Kalas’s antidotes to distraction speak to the preachers ability to wed thoughtful exposition with demonstrative care for Christ’s church. This book packs a punch! I recommend this book for preachers (lay preachers and professional clergy) who are seeking ways to hone their craft. Kalas is a wise guide. I give this book five stars: ★★★★★.

Thank you to IVP for providing me with a review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Simply Preaching: a book review

When the opportunity to review a new preaching book by Alec Motyer presented itself, I jumped at the chance.  A competent biblical scholar, Motyer has written several commentaries that I have on my shelf (both in paper format and electronic). Notably, his commentaries on Isaiah is essential to anyone who wishes to gain a greater grasp on Isaiah’s prophecy. He is  the general editor of the Old Testament for the Bible Speaks Today commentary series (published by IVP) and has contributed several volumes to the series. He is also former principal of  Trinity College, Bristol.

In Preaching? Simple Teaching on Simply Preaching, Motyer details his approach to expository preaching. He shares wisdom from years of practice with plenty of examples of how to take a text and turn it into a sermon. This is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to preaching. Motyer writes, “For preaching is a very personal and individual exercise. We can learn from each other, but must not copy each other. It won’t work! Like criminals we must each discover our own modus operandi – find out what is our own brand of murder – and, hopefully, get away with it!” (Kindle Locations 306-308).  Without heavy-handedly describing ‘the’ plan for preaching, Motyer shares his advice and insight on how to do it well. As a scholar, pastor, expositor, and preacher with decades of faithful service, he has a lot to say.

Motyer’s method is simple (as his subtitle suggests). He tells us to find a text: examine it, analyze it, orient ourselves to it, and harvest from it.  The wisdom of his approach is that it forces the preacher to sit under a text rather than use a passage to illustrate their own agenda (or what they think the church ‘needs to hear’). Literary structure, inclusio, word studies and repetitions reveal meaning in the text. Often attention to the broad contours of the passage reveals an apt word for our context. This is what Motyer suggests: study and understand the text, prayerfully submit yourself to the text and pay attention to what God is saying there. When you have done that, you can craft a sermon (harvesting). And yes, he does offer advice on presentation and delivery: what to do and not do, and what to do but not too much. He does have some good words to say about how to draw out applications from a passage.

These are all important points and I agree a wholeheartedly with most of what Motyer commends. I have minor disagreements with him in places because as Motyer observes, preaching is a highly personal endeavor.  But I have still failed to mention what I think are the most significant insights that Motyer imparts.   I appreciated Motyer’s passion for the importance of preaching. Unfolding God’s Word and declaring it to the church gathered is sacred work. Beginning in his early chapters, but throughout this volume, Motyer describes this joyful and serious task and the demands it makes of the would-be-preacher. To preach and preach well is to give attention to the Word and to the church. While Motyer devotes much of this book describing attention to the Word (where we hear the voice of God), to preach well is also to fulfill our pastoral vocation: to pray for the congregation, and be involved in their lives. As Motyer observes, “Our position as ministers in a church gives us the right to preach, but it does not give us the right to be heard”(Kindle Locations 1503-1504).  A pastor who is actively caring for the flock and prayerfully attending to their spiritual formation will preach with power.

I warmly commend this book to preachers, especially young preachers with little experience. Motyer illustrates his approach by giving several examples of how to exegete a passage and turn it into a sermon.  By opening up his process to new preachers, Motyer gives them a gift. Those who follow his method will be brought into an encounter with the Spirit in the text. May all who declare God’s Word do so with such loving attention! I give this book 5 stars.

Thank you to Christian Focus Publications for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my review.

Having Something Worth Saying, and Saying It Well: a book review

I like comedian and motivational speaker Ken Davis. I have several video tapes of him delivering inspirational messages and he never fails to make you laugh and think. There are a couple of his messages which I can still remember near verbatim years later.  One of the things that impresses me about him is his ability to use humor in a way that re-enforces his overall message. I know from experience that humor sometimes can undermine your message and make it difficult for people to take you seriously, but Davis is a master of moving you from laughter to tears while proclaiming truth and moving you to a response.

In the Secrets of Dynamic Communication,  Davis reveals the secrets of dynamic communication (not just another clever title).  This is a book about public speaking written for anyone with something worth saying. The most important component of  an effective speech is focus. Davis argues that pinpointing the purpose of your talk, will give you greater clarity and make you easier to listen to.  He advocates what he calls the SCORRE process.

When I first saw the acronym SCORRE, I figured that Davis is primarily a speaker and so not a great speller. But each letter represents one aspect of his system for preparing a talk, described in part one of this book the letters are:

  • S–Establishing the Subject
  • C– Choosing a Central Theme
  • O– Focusing on the Objective
  • R– Developing a solid Rationale (i.e. outline, organization).
  • R– Gathering Resources (i.e. illustrations, quotes, etc). 
  • E– Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate

Davis describes  ‘presenting’ in part two. He talks about involving the audience, using effective and non-distracting body language and controlling the speaking environment (i.e. lighting, sound, minimizing distractions, etc).

Part three imparts wisdom about thriving as a speaker. After a chapter on time management, Davis has a chapter on the use of humor in speeches.  He makes a distinction between high-risk humor (jokes that could bomb) and low-risk humor (funny stories which illustrate the point).  As I said above, Davis is masterful at using humor to illustrate his points, and his advice to other speakers is to not use humor that detracts from your overall message, or does not fit the context you are speaking in. His closing chapter describes the blend of logos, ethos, and pathos for dynamic communication. These are terms that come straight from Aristotle, but also describe (in the language of Christian spirituality) how our message and our lives should speak to head, heart and hands. I couldn’t agree more.

As I read through this book, I was able to assess where some of my own sermons have been most successful (and why a few bombed!).  I think I already implement aspects of the SCORRE process whenever I prepare a sermon or talk. What I haven’t really done is develop an objective statement the Davis way: wedding a proposition to an interrogative response.   His way of articulating an objective is very particular (i.e. he instructs us to always use keywords, stating that keywords are always plural nouns).  I am not sure that I will ever write an objective statement like the one he calls for, but his purpose is sound.  We’ve all watched speakers flounder and run down rabbit tails and wondered what they were trying to say. Having an objective disciplines a speaker to stay on task which helps everyone in the room!

If you engage in any sort of public speaking (which you will), this will be a helpful book. Davis is a seasoned speaker and has got a lot of wisdom to share.  Experienced speakers may regard some of this as basic, but it is worthwhile to review the basics and to evaluate your own process. I give this book five stars!

Thank you to Thomas Nelson and Booksneeze for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.