My wife and I have been to countless number of churches throughout California and along the Front Range of Colorado. We both have various reasons for picking the church we attend now. She enjoys the worship and freedom allowed for the Holy Spirit and I pick churches for the preaching. I want to have the Bible expounded when I sit among the flock and I want it to be applicable. Some of the sermons I have heard are great and wonderful and some were, not so great.
Daniel Overdorf has written an excellent companion for pastors in a simple devotional style layout. One Year to Better Preaching: 52 Exercises to Hone Your Skills (Kregel, 2013) is a resource sorely needed in a time of denominational decline and a reorganizing of religion in America. Preachers are seen as old and out of date so new methodology and research is being done instead of returning to the pulpit and teaching the unadulterated word of God. Preaching is pushed aside as new ideas are pouring into the walls of Christendom. Worship is generating concert-styled services and preaching is geared toward one avenue of ministry instead of the whole.
In one simple year preachers can take back their churches with exercises Daniel Overdorf has compiled. Overdorf is an ideal candidate to compile such exercises, knowing the ins and outs of pastoral ministry. He has written numerous books, including those regarding sermon prep and a book on the Church. A DMin from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary sure doesn’t hurt either.
After a short section on the use of his book, Overdorf jumps right into the material. Some of the ideas are practical and easily put to use, but others require more strategic planning. For example, compiling a Sermon Prayer Group would be easy to do for most pastors but having a pastor come and preach in your stead and you in his may need a little more time and work. Both ideas are beneficial but require the pastor and the church staff to be a little more flexible.
Overdorf includes several helpful sections at the end of each chapter including, resources for further study and testimonial section from pastors who have applied these exercises in their situations. Some of these exercises are impossible for inter-denominational uses but would fit well in satellite churches or campuses. These exercises would also be useful for a pastor to bring his associate pastors up to speed and give them a little more time in the pulpit.
The exercise the stuck most with me were Thinking Apologetically, Reading Classic Preachers, and Utilizing the Five Senses. Overdorf urges readers in the intro to step out of their comfort zones when trying some of these exercises and has provided plenty of opportunity for the preacher to do so. I would never feel comfortable analyzing a movie or going to work with a church member but the testimonials have much to say about the positive effects these specific examples have had on them.
Overall this book is well written with specific application points which translate well to the ministry of preaching. For a guy like me who is not a preacher this book serves well in the areas of general communication and church relations. Many of the exercises can be applied outside the pulpit with a little modifying. I am thankful for books like this which urge the preachers under God’s command to sharpen the tools which may have been flattened by their prolonged lack of use.