Last week I read Stuart Olyott’s recently published book Preaching – Pure and Simple (Bryntirion Press, 2005). It is only 188 pages long and is a very easy read. It is not intended to be an in depth treatment, as the author acknowledges, and points to other books for lengthier treatments, but I would say (from my limited experience!) it is an essential for any preacher. It is the kind of book that ought to be read regularly for self-appraisal and improvement.
I recognised much of the material in it because it is the fruit of his lecturing at ETCW and many other places. In it he sets out the essentials of good sermon preparation under five headings:
- Exegetical accuracy – making sure that you are preaching what the Bible is actually saying
- Doctrinal substance – preaching must open up the system of truth that the Bible contains
- Clear Structure – the hearers must know where you are going and that you and they are making progress.
- Vivid Illustration – Dr. Olyott likens these to windows to illuminate and otherwise dark and forbidding room
- Pointed application – this section challenges the view that all the preacher needs to do is to throw the truth to the listener and let the Holy Spirit apply it as he will. Part of the work is the preacher is to help the hearer apply the Word to him/herself.
There is a helpful chapter on how one should deliver the sermon, dealing with voice, posture, dress, mannerisms etc.
Perhaps the must powerful chapter, though, is on ‘unction’ or supernatural authority. This reminds the preacher that what he is engaged in is a supernatural event ordained by God. For preaching to be spiritually effective God must do it. Therefore the whole process of preparation is one act of prayer and worship. While reading this chapter I realised why the earlier parts of the book were so striking. It was that it they were infused with heart and passion for God and his glory. Not only was it short and practical – it was thrilling.
The final two chapters consisted of a method for preparation, which serves a good model to start from, and a tribute to one of Dr. Olyott’s favourite preachers who exemplified the message of this book.
Preachers! Go and buy it. Now!
PS. If you want to hear Dr. O.’s own preaching, you can get some of his sermons through this web project.