Dec 20, 2019

Review of A Manual for Preaching

Abraham Kuruvilla, A Manual for Preaching: The Journey from Text to Sermon (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2019).

The author, Abraham Kuruvilla, is well-regarded for his work in homiletical theory and methodology. As an author, teacher, and practitioner of preaching, he is well-suited to write the volume under consideration.
This manual contains nine logically-arranged chapters sandwiched between an introduction and conclusion. It moves from “getting ready” (chp. 1) to “delivering sermons” (chp. 9). The reader is taken from text to sermon methodologically and the process is demonstrated by Kuruvilla with passages from Genesis and Ephesians. There are also four appendices that help to unpack select concepts.

Overall, the volume is a bit more technical than some standard preaching texts. The reader will have to pay close attention to fully-appreciate its contributions. But thankfully, the author is careful in defining, explaining, and illustrating his points. For example, Kuruvilla defines biblical preaching as “Biblical preaching, by a leader of the church, in a gathering of Christians for worship, is the communication of the thrust of a periscope of Scripture discerned by theological exegesis, and of its application to that specific body of believers, that they may be conformed to the image of Christ, for the glory of God—all in the power of the Spirit” (p. xiv). One might not agree with the definition but there should be little confusion about what the author means. Preaching veterans and novices will benefit from the sage advice that is sprinkled throughout. Concerning the tendency to chase theological rabbits, Kuruvilla, advises, “Be discriminating. Keep asking, right from the start, “Will knowing this help me discern the doing of the author? Do I need to know this to apply the text?” (p. 34). More than one sermon has been waylaid because this important point was not heeded. Later he reminds us that “simplicity always wins” (p. 227). The humor (usually of the dry variety) was another feature of this book that I enjoyed.

In a book like this, there will typically be definitions, concepts, and advice that will generate disagreement. I suspect that some will find Kuruvilla’s approach too technical and process too mechanical. Others will not appreciate his views regarding the biblical languages (pp. 9-10). Concepts and terms like pericopal theology, Christiconic, and theological focus are likely to generate healthy debate. His challenge of the popular “big idea” approach (app. 1) has and will continue to produce lively discussions.

But in sum, Kuruvilla has gifted the preaching community with a volume that has the potential to produce better and more biblically-faithful preachers. This should be worth celebrating even if one might have to occasionally spit out a seed before enjoying the fruit.

You can access a PDF excerpt here.

Much thanks to Baker Academic for providing the copy used in this unbiased review.

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