Preaching God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Preparing, Developing, and Delivering the Sermon—Video LecturesBy Terry G. Carter, J. Scott Duvall, J. Daniel Hays (Zondervan, 2017).

Carter, Duvall, and Hays—all at Ouachita Baptist University-have produced a 2-DVD set of video lectures, to accompany a textbook of the same title (Zondervan, 2005). In fact, much of the DVD material is the same as that in the book, even verbatim at times.

The first DVD has 8 chapters and deals with the fundamentals of preaching (which I shall focus on in this review); the second has 7 and deals with preaching the various genres of Scripture. Carter does seven sessions (most of those that deal with general aspects of preaching), Duvall four (exegesis and preaching the NT genres), and Hays four (preaching the OT genres). Each session runs about 20 minutes, for a total of about 5 hours’ worth of video. (I watched it all in 2× speed, following along with the textbook, and taking notes, all at the same time-quite a feat, if I may say so myself!)

There is not much in the DVDs (or the book, for that matter) that will be new to readers of this Journal. But how useful will the DVDs (+ book) be for students of preaching?

Since Duvall approvingly noted a comment made to him by a pastor that “Preaching is all about hermeneutics” (DVD 1, Lesson 2 @ 1:32-1:36), let me address that issue. Here is his list of things to do to “grasp the text.” Read the text thoroughly watching for: repetition, contrasts, comparisons, lists, cause and effect, figures of speech, conjunctions, verbs, pronouns, general/specific, questions/answers, dialogue, purpose/result statements, means, conditional clauses, actions/roles of God and of people, emotional terms, tone of passage, connections to other paragraphs and episodes, etc. Here is another list of elements to consider as one examines the original context: the passages before and after, the author, backgrounds, times, nature of ministry, relationship with audience, purpose, audience characteristics, their circumstances, their relationship with God, and other historical-cultural factors. This is akin to me, a dermatologist, providing a trainee with a checklist for moles: check asymmetry, border, color, diameter, evolution, etc., besides personal history of sun exposure, family history of skin cancers, and so on. What help would this checklist be without knowing what observations might be significant and what might not? Unfortunately, this is routine fare in many textbooks of preaching, indeed even in those teaching Greek and Hebrew exegesis.

Carter, Duvall, and Hays also are in favor of a “text thesis statement” that is synthetic, composed of one or two sentences, in the past tense, that includes the original audience, and describes what the text meant to them then. This “text thesis statement” is then to be converted into a “sermon thesis statement” that addresses the current audience in an imperative. For instance, here is Carter’s “text thesis statement” on John 17:1-23: “Jesus prayed for God’s plan to be fulfilled first in himself, then in his disciples, and finally in all those who would believe in him.” And here is his sermon thesis statement: “As we pray for the church, we should ask that God’s plan will be fulfilled in all believers, including ourselves, fellow believers, and all those who will become Christians in the future” (DVD 1, Lesson 5 @ 3:50-4:37). Really? Jesus prayed, and so we pray? Is that what the text is about? Has it not got anything to do with being reassured by Jesus’ intercession for his people? And so are the prayers of Paul in his epistles also merely models of how we ought to pray? Yes, Duvall is right: “Crossing the bridge poses the greatest challenge” for a preacher, and the authors propose to conduct that journey by “principlizing” (DVD 1; Lesson 2, Discovering Biblical Truth @ 19:13-19:22). Though widely utilized in evangelical circles, there is a danger in such a reductive operation for it implicitly understands the God-given text as a wrapper that must be stripped away (and discarded) to extract the all-important candy (the “principle”) hidden therein. One would also have to wonder at God’s wisdom in giving the bulk of his Scripture in non-propositional, non-theological, non-timeless-principle, non-“thesis statement” form, with messy stories and arcane prophecies and sentimental poetry. But alas, this transaction of “principlizing,” too, is standard fare in homiletical textbooks and classes.

All in all, the DVD set, well recorded and edited, is a worthy effort, though I have doubts about its utility for preaching students. The book might be a decent resource for the fundamentals of homiletics, but the DVDs do not add much to what is in the hard copy. Students are well-advised to save their forty bucks.

Journal of the Evangelical Homiletics Society 18.1 (2018): 82–83

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