Review: Power in the Pulpit, by Jerry Vines & Jim Shaddix

Subtitle: How to Prepare and Deliver Expository Sermons

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Power in the Pulpit is a lengthy three-section textbook.  At times it may feel like the goal in writing was exhaustive explanation, rather than reasonable length.  Although not in the same league as Robinson or Sunukjian, the book is worth reading.  It is especially targeted at the minister preaching every Sunday.

The first section deals with the preparation for exposition.  The task of preaching is defined with a lengthy support for exposition as the ideal philosophy of preaching.  The foundation for preaching is seen in the word of God and worship of God, fundamental pre-requisites for preaching, along with the less well supported concepts of the call of God and anointing.  Finally, the preparation of the preacher is set out through the idea of being a healthy, hard-working individual who is a good steward of heart, mind, body and schedule. 

The second section is somewhat unsatisfying.  The process of exposition is set out at length, but seemingly without original contribution.  The analysis of the text is presented well, followed by the process of theme unification.  In fact, the sections on the central idea, the proposition and the purpose, are all effective (albeit tedious at points).  There is a bombastic attack on the new homiletic when the structure section begins (this makes the book read like a college text rather than a seminary text – proving a point cheaply using straw men, rather than engaging fairly with different views).  Then the structure section gets into concepts like the keyword method.  This section begins well but seems to get weighed down in detail and dogmatism by this stage. 

The writers rightly urge the preacher to be not only biblical, but also relevant.  So the preacher should observe culture and learn about people, they should particularly be concerned with how the message is relevant to their specific audience.  The section ends with strength as the authors provide helpful discussion of invitations at the end of messages (detail often overlooked in preaching texts).

The third part of the book deals with the presentation of the message.  After development comes delivery.  Here the book comes into its own with detailed suggestions on how to communicate the thoughts of the message in a way that will engage and communicate with the audience.  Here audience awareness is critical –level of education, type of vocabulary, manner of delivery and so on.  In order to make the connection necessary with the audience, it is helpful to use visualization for the sake of more vivid communication.  Part of this is visualization of the audience.  Thus, the preacher who better knows his audience will be better prepared.

The book ends with a strong call for preaching from the heart.  It is this personal connection, delivery of passion, of soul, of self, that magnifies the effect of communication on the recipients.  Helpful appendices at the end deal with relaxation, breathing and voice.

This book certainly covers a lot of ground.  Perhaps its greatest strength comes in its exhaustive dealing with delivery.  It is certain chapters, such as on the voice, that will prove a useful resource. 

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