Review: Preaching for Special Services, by Scott M. Gibson


They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.  In this case I think you shouldn’t judge a book by its size.  This short one-hundred page book is well worth having for several reasons that I will list below.  Honestly, I only picked it up in order to scan it and make space for a new book on my “preaching books to read” shelf.  I’m glad I did.

This book is focused on “special services.”  That means weddings, funerals, baptisms, infant presentations, the Lord’s Supper and a selection of other events in the final chapter including evangelistic sermons.  In each chapter Scott Gibson presents a brief but well-informed history of preaching on that occasion in Jewish and Christian history.  He briefly outlines elements of a theology of preaching for such an event.  Then he addresses the issue of developing the sermon, before the closing section on delivering the sermon.  There is a sensitivity and gracious spirit throughout.  The book follows the Haddon Robinson approach to sermon preparation.

Three reasons why I’m impressed with this little book:

1. It gives specific, helpful and gracious instruction for how to prepare and present a biblical sermon at these special services.  For many preachers these events tend to be an extra burden in the schedule, but for those present or involved, these events are long remembered.  Gibson offers help to the preacher, who will remain in the shadows of the event and yet brings a word in season for those gathered.

2. I suppose this book could be written simply with the sections on how to develop and deliver the messages.  I certainly wasn’t expecting the valuable historical and theological elements in these chapters.  Although short, these concise sections add great value to the book.

3. Scott Gibson does not try to re-create what Robinson has done so well in terms of the big idea approach to sermon preparation.  What Gibson does throughout the book is concisely and helpfully integrate and contextualize Robinson’s model (for example the careful concern for a sermonic purpose statement in each chapter).  Some who have read Robinson may find that elements “click” in their understanding when reading Gibson’s specific-occasion application of that model.

(And, a minor fourth point, unlike Gibson and Willhite’s Big Idea of Biblical Preaching, this book was almost bereft of editorial oversights.  There’s a sermon purpose statement error on page 97, and an extra word in a book title on page 99, otherwise the book seemed “clean.”)

(Published in 2001)

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