Apr 3, 2011

Should Non-Preachers Read Preaching Books?

I think that the answer to the question is “yes.” Just to be clear, I am not talking about collections of sermons of well-known preachers (these have a value in their own right). Rather I am talking about preaching or homiletic textbooks. I would suggest that a congregation in general, or at least the lay leadership in particular, would benefit from such reading even if they never preach a sermon themselves. In fact, I suggest that there are at least four benefits of non-preachers gaining insight into the work that goes into the preparation and delivery of sermons.

(1) A non-preacher, reading a good textbook on preaching would often address an area of ignorance. Most people have little clue as to how a preacher moves from text to sermon to delivery. If you don’t believe me, just ask around.

(2) Insight into the work of preaching could lead to greater appreciation of the work of the preacher. Many congregants wonder why it takes ten to twenty hours to prepare a sermon. A preaching textbook would help to explain why well-crafted messages take so much time. Unfortunately some preachers are forced to justify their time in the study. Having an informed congregation would help to make the preacher’s case. In the best case, congregations would insist that their preacher spend sufficient time in the study, even if that meant delegating some common pastoral functions to others.

(3) Understanding what preaching involves can help those in the pew to pray more specifically for those tasked with preaching. While God can honor uninformed prayers, informed prayers would seem to be preferable. By the way, people that have been praying for the preaching process are more likely to be engaged in listening to that which they have prayed for. 

(4) An informed congregation would provide additional stimulus to the preacher who might be less than diligent in their task. While I believe that most preachers work hard at their preaching, even the best of us can sometimes become complacent. An informed congregation might not allow that complacency to go unchallenged for any length of time.  

Having made the case for non-preachers reading preaching books, I would be remiss to acknowledge that there is always the possibility that some would take this new-found knowledge and use it as a weapon to unfairly criticize or intimidate less accomplished preachers. I have been around long enough to know that this possibility is real. Nonetheless, I think the potential benefits outweigh the potential hazards.

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