Preaching is a discipline that requires a level of seriousness combined with a delicate handling of the text. Dr. R. Scott Pace understands that and it comes across in his new book, Preaching by the Book: Developing and Delivering Text-Driven Sermons.
Essentially, the author has written a textbook-like resource meant to hone a person’s preaching ability. Exploring the task of preaching, Pace follows his own preaching tips for the organization and development of the book by forming the layout around three parts: foundation, framework, and finishing touches. He follows an expected dialogue first by starting with the point that the Bible is God’s truth and therefore must be handled correctly, before moving forward to the process of studying, interpreting, constructing, and finally preaching a sermon. Readers, especially pastors who have had a preaching class, will not find the material contained within it surprising or unexpected.
Pace’s reverence for the task of preaching is exceptional. It is a reverence that is developed out of his reverence for God. That basis alone makes Preaching by the Book a noteworthy resource for those who engage in preaching. Additionally, the author writes a very practical book that not only offers insights and ideas but provokes immediate employment of those characteristics in one’s own preparation for preaching. It is important to note that Dr. Pace is not writing to give blueprint sermon templates, invoke specific applications, or provide a hermeneutics class. He is writing simply to compel others to engage in the activity of preaching by allowing the Word of God to speak. He notes early on that it is the form and function of the passage that should dictate the construction of a sermon.
Dr. R. Scott Pace writes a basic book that is full of important information for preachers, but it does come with several concerns. Most notably, is who is called to preach. The book is written in such a way that seems to suggest that anyone can preach as long as they follow the rules laid out in this book. He never says this outright, and his conviction about the seriousness of preaching can suggest differently, but one’s calling as a preacher is an important topic that the author should have discussed.
A second concern is noted later on in the book when he writes, “God’s assessment of us are based on the influence our teaching has on the lives of our listeners” to which he cites James 3:1. Certainly, God’s assessment of preachers includes their handling and presentation of His Word so as to not mislead others (which is what James is discussing in 3:1). However, his phrasing here seems to suggest that preachers are responsible for the behavior of those listening to their sermon (and whether or not they respond). While some may say that the author was simply suggesting that preachers are responsible for their handling of the Word, that may be true. However, he addresses that point more later in the book, which seems to suggest that is not the point he is trying to convey here. I hesitate to put too much emphasis on this because my interpretation could be wrong. Yet, the severity of such of a statement warrants attention and should probably more clearly defined for readers.
Finally, of minor concern is that the author writes from his own cultural-centric perspective. He makes suggestions such as all points should be in complete sentences or that they should all follow a congruent format. Certainly, this can be helpful, and to be honest, I personally prefer points to be made in a similar format. However, there is little support to proclaim that all sermons must follow that format. I would go further and argue that this is more based on what was instilled into a person and thus is dependent upon cultural upbringing (I can tell you that those in the culture in which I minister don’t often thing congruently and would not recognize if they all followed the same formatting anyway.
Preaching by the Book has some practical insights that many would find value in and therefore, I would not discourage a person from reading it. However, it is probably best considered a secondary source to be utilized after perhaps exhausting some of the others first.
If you are interested in purchasing a copy of this book or knowing more, click here. I would recommend that before reading “Preaching by the Book,” read Dr. Steven Lawson’s biography “The Passionate Preaching Martyn Lloyd-Jones” because it establishes a good foundation for the priority of who should preach.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher at no cost to me for the purposes of review. However, this review was not influenced in any way by the author, publisher, or anyone else associated with the book and is the result of my own reading of it.