R. Larry Overstreet, Persuasive Preaching: A Biblical and Practical Guide to the Effective Use of Persuasion (Wooster, OH: Weaver, 2014).
Like the author I came to faith and cut my teeth on a persuasive preaching style that typically included some kind of invitation. It was only later that I was exposed to a different style of preaching that was less confrontational and more contemplative. This book by Larry Overstreet is an examination of homiletical theology in general and the use of persuasion in particular. It is an apologetic for, and a call to, return to a more directly persuasive form of preaching.
Persuasive Preaching is laid out logically, moving from need, to theory, to practice. So in part 1, Overstreet identifies issues and challenges related to persuasive preaching. This is followed in part 2 by a comprehensive discussion of biblical texts and terms that relate to persuasion. Here the author finds ample support for the use of persuasion. Having established that biblical legitimacy for the use of persuasion, part 3 identifies four structural approaches to persuasive messages (motivated sequence, problem-solution, cause-effect, and refutation). The final part of this work relates to three pertinent issues that relate to the application of persuasive peaching. Here Overstreet addresses the issue of persuasion versus manipulation and outlines an ethical use of persuasion. He also discusses the role of the Holy Spirit in preaching and do’s and don’ts related to the use of invitations. Appendices, bibliography and indexes round out the volume.
Persuasive Preaching is an interesting and rare study. As the author notes, many preaching texts assume persuasion (of some sort) but don’t often talk about it. I have read a number of volumes on preaching and can say that this volume is the most comprehensive treatment on the topic that I have ever encountered. This will likely be both the strength and weakness of this volume.
Those interested in a thorough examination of the biblical foundations of persuasion (including some fairly significant interaction with Greek) will enjoy this volume. Less interested readers will probably skim or skip this section as being too technical. Those looking for a detailed presentation of structural approaches to persuasive messages (motivated sequence, problem-solution, cause-effect, and refutation) will be delighted, but less patient readers will probably feel a bit frustrated although the sample sermons in Appendix E will probably help.
I enjoyed this volume. I learned much. But I suspect some of my preaching peers would be less enthusiastic. This is not a quick or light read. But in the end, while it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I think that Overstreet has provided a valuable resource for studying the topic of persuasion in preaching and a persuasive argument for its use in the pulpit.
You can access a PDF excerpt here.
Thanks to Weaver for providing the free book used in this unbiased review.