Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Book Review: Saving Eutychus: How to Preach God’s Word and Keep People Awake

It is the bane of all preachers.  It’s the middle of your sermon.  You are passionate about your topic.  And you look around and see someone (or more than one someone) nodding off in your congregation.  I suspect every preacher – even the best ones – have been there.

And if that is you, there is help on the way.  Gary Millar, a transplanted Irishman, and Phil Campbell, an Aussie, have written a wonderful book to provide aid for every pastor.  It is aptly entitled Saving Eutychus:  How to Preach God’s Word and Keep People Awake.  I suspect every preacher will get the title, but for those of you who don’t, check out Acts 20:7-12.  (Even Paul put people to sleep at times….)

Saving Eutychus is an immensely practical and surprisingly funny book about preaching in such a way as to keep your audience in tune with your message.  I have read many preaching and communication books.  Some I enjoyed.  Some I forced myself through.  Some stood on my deck half read until I gave up on them.  This little book – clocking in at only 170 pages – belongs in the first category.

Saving Eutychus has some things in common with other preaching books.  There is a focus on speaking to change the heart.  There is a chapter on finding the big idea in your passage.  Some of that stuff I have read many times before.  But Millar and Campbell’s style make it enjoyable, even if the material is familiar.

I was quite surprised that Millar and Campbell were, like me, manuscript preachers.  (I have always been told that types like us were second class citizens.)  It encouraged me to know that, and to know that they type their manuscript as they would speak it, using present tense verbs frequently.  That is a trick I stumbled on myself years ago – it is nice to know others feel it is valuable as well.

There were a number of chapters that I enjoyed greatly.  One chapter focused on the place of the gospel in preaching, even (and especially) when preaching from the Old Testament.  It offers the reader a biblical theology primer for preachers.  Another investigated the mechanics of sermon delivery, using some useful visual images.  The book ends by walking through the process of building a sermon with Phil Campbell, and then seeing that sermon critiqued by Gary Millar.  Included is a sermon feedback form that can be used to provide feedback on your own sermons.

Is Saving Eutychus the best book on preaching out there?  I would not go that far, but it is good.  It is worth the read.  It is challenging and funny and enjoyable.  And I suspect that every person who speaks publicly – whether preaching or not – will find helpful truths and tips so that they, unlike the apostle Paul in Acts 20, will preach God’s Word and keep people awake.

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