I’m a little bit of a preaching nerd. I enjoy good preaching and rich sermons. I also get a little aggravated when it becomes clear that a preacher didn’t prepare well or doesn’t treat the preaching of the inerrant Word of God with the gravity that it deserves. I have also read a lot of preaching books. It’s a guilty pleasure. I try to read at least one per year. I’ve read really good ones (Haddon Robinson, John Stott, etc), middle of the road ones, and really bad ones (we’ll not get too specific here). When I saw that Kregel was publishing another “simple” book on preaching, I wondered if it could contribute much to the already huge body of literature out there. I was pleasantly surprised.
Daniel Overdorf has made one of the most recent contributions to the world of preaching books with his volume Preaching: A Simple Approach to the Sacred Task. The book is short, concise, and clear, with Overdorf’s trademark preaching exercises scattered throughout.
I started out a little leery of the book. There was a comment early on about people hearing something during the sermon that the preacher didn’t actually say and it being the Holy Spirit. That threw me a little, but Overdorf drew me back in quickly with his emphasis on the seriousness of the task.
His may be a “simple” approach,” but it is a sacred task. The author establishes his definition of preaching in his opening pages: “Preaching is the proclamation of God’s story, grounded in His Word, empowered by His Spirit, and embodied by His servant for the redemption and edification of His people.”
The book is then divided into eight chapters that Overdorf uses to unpack his simple process for developing and delivering a sermon. Each chapter is brief, but rich in content, and is followed by a set of exercises to help the reader practice the skills taught. There is richness along the way. In chapter 2: Research, the author points out that “You’re the only person in the world with one foot in your text and one foot in your congregation (39).” This is a vitally important part of sermon prep! I listen to numerous good sermons on podcasts each week , but the man faithfully proclaiming the text doesn’t know me, my family, or the challenges we are facing. That is supposed to come from your local pastor, and it makes his preaching unique.
Overdorf also helps preachers understand that “an effective sermon is more like a bullet than buckshot” in chapter 3. He instructs us to focus in and not get distracted by thoughts and concepts that are not actually in the text. The rest of the chapters continue this pattern, giving both theological instruction in the grand task of preaching and helping preachers with extremely practical tips on things like verbs usage and sentence construction.
Preaching: A Simple Approach to the Sacred Task probably needs to be used in conjunction with a few other books in a college or seminary setting, but it is going to quickly become a staple on those book lists. Its greatest strength though is how much it gets into a small and accessible volume. Because of this, I see Overdorf’s work as the new standard for helping men in the local church learn to preach. Pastors, get a few copies and work through this with your elders or with other men in the church who you believe might be gifted in this area. We need to raise up more faithful men in the local church who can stand in the pulpit and clearly and accurately proclaim the Word of God. This book will help you do that well.