My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I have read my fair share of books on preaching through the decades. Many of them are encouraging and helpful, unpacking the "Why" and "What" of Christian preaching before they get into the "How". Each one normally has a unique perspective and pursuit. Some are trendy, many others are traditional. Jeffrey D. Arthurs, professor of preaching and communication at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, MA, has recently added his assessment and angle in a new 192 page softback, “Preaching as Reminding: Stirring Memory in an of Forgetfulness”. These seven chapters are easy to read and retain, while supplying strengthening substance.
The first three chapters of “Preaching as Reminding” look carefully at the role of remembering and forgetting in Sacred Scripture, and how the preacher is called to be a reminder, a remembrancer. A remembrancer is not one who simply repeats clichéd commonplaces. Rather, the Christian preacher “must rouse that which is already present within the child of God: knowledge of our Father’s love and majesty” (6).Theology, doctrine, thoughtful exegesis, apologetics and more, all have their place in stout Christian preaching, affirms Arthurs Therefore when “ministers preach God’s powerful Word as faithful stewards, their words have a derivative power that accomplishes God’s will through the power of the Spirit. Thus, when a preacher faithfully re-presents redemptive history, worshipers see the hand of God smite the Egyptians on their behalf, part the Red Sea for their deliverance, and provide manna in the desert for them…The past is brought into the present with power, and actions results. In short, God’s Word, faithfully announced builds faith” (490). As I worked my way through these three chapters, my heart was filled with a sense of revived devotion, and a roused gratefulness for my vocation.
Chapters four through six address design and style, along with story and delivery, as aids to awaken memory in the hearts and heads of parishioners. The author takes the time to bring out the importance of vivid language as well as the role of repetition and rhythm. Additionally he recounts the value of story and how story works in a sermon. Lastly, Arthurs tackles the delicate area of delivery: facial expressions, tonal qualities, and emotional facets. The embodiedness of preaching is essential because, “as oral communications, preaching is incarnational. God has placed his Word in bodies so that we turn ink into blood” (105). Yet further, running through these three chapters is a hearty refrain that rhythmically pounds away: the Lord’s remembrancer is to be about persuasion by first being personally persuaded. The heart of the preacher is regularly addressed!
The last chapter in “Preaching as Reminding” takes up the point about the embodiment of proclamation and remembering, and moves into ceremony and symbol. Arthurs gives the minister very practical approaches to baptism and the Lord’s Supper, but also to the worship of a congregation, the public reading of Scripture, and the pastoral prayer. In all of these additional public tasks of a minister, the author keeps placing before us that we are the Lord’s remembrancers, even in these assignments.
“Preaching as Reminding” was a pleasure to read. It has given me assurances where I often doubt myself, challenged me on a few items that I have taken for granted, and given me a renewed appreciation for what I am called to do. It is an ideal book for seminarians and ministerial interns moving toward ordination. But it is also a usable volume that I would rejoice to see in the hands of many ministers. I encourage preachers reading this review to quickly take up a copy and pour over it. And if you appreciate your minister, then get them a copy and tell them I strongly recommended it.
Thanks to IVP Academic for providing, upon my request, the free copy of the book used for this review. The assessments are mine given without restrictions or requirements (as per Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255).
The book can be purchased here: "Preaching as Reminding".
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