Monday, June 27, 2011

Preaching Quote of the Week

"The supreme work of the Christian minister is the work of preaching. This is a day in which one of our great perils is that of doing a thousand little things to the neglect of the one thing, which is preaching."

G. Campbell Morgan, Preaching (published in 1937)

What are your favorite books on preaching?

I try to read at least a couple of preaching books a year.  Thanks to doctoral studies, I've read more than that in this past year.  While not every book on preaching is helpful towards the task, several have proved immensely rewarding.  I'm currently reading Fred Craddock's now classic work Preaching.  In the first chapter he advocates the reading or rereading of older books on preaching:

"Let us not be uncritically enamored of the new.  Some older volumes on preaching could profitably be reissued, not as a sentimental return to old paths but as confession that part of the malaise in the discipline is due not to a stubborn refusal to move beyond tradition but to a thoughtless failure to listen carefully to that tradition.  One becomes a concert pianist not by abandoning the scales but by mastering and repeating that most basic exercise. Who could say, after all the centuries, that reading Aristotle's Rhetoric or Poetics or Augustine's instructions on preaching is no longer of benefit to the preacher?"

So the question of the week is this: What are your favorite books on preaching?  These of course, don't have to be books about preaching.  Some books my be very influential on one's preaching even if they are only indirectly about the topic.

Here are some of mine:

Favorite how-to on preaching: Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages by Haddon Robinson.  This basic text isn't glamorous, but it reminds me of the "scales of preaching" quite well.  The updated addition (2001) includes a greater emphasis upon different forms of preaching than the first (1980) plus more gender inclusive language.  It's a text I'd recommend to anyone wanting to learn to preach or to review their "scales." 

Most inspirational book on preaching: This is usually whatever book I happen to currently be reading.  But a lasting favorite is Barbara Brown Taylor's Preaching Life.  Not only does she paint a beautiful portrait of the preaching task as only she can do, a third of the book includes sample sermons which are themselves worth the price of the book.

Favorite collection of sermons: OK, this is cheating a little, but I'm going with 20 Centuries of Great Preaching, a thirteen volume set edited by Clyde Fant and William Pinson.  I inherited this from a mentor and have found it a true delight.  I freely admit that I have not read the entire thirteen volumes.  But I do occasionally pull a volume down and read through the sermons by a famous preacher.  All the heavyweights are there, but so are many that I have never heard of before.  Not every sermon is great, but many are.   

Favorite non-preaching book that has influenced my preaching:  Again, this one changes frequently. Most recently it has been Marilyn Chandler McEntyre's Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies.  This isn't a book about preaching, but a book about loving words, both written and spoken.  I don't reread many books, but this is one I can envision picking up and reading again and again.