When I first started preaching, I was a terrible preacher. Then, with practice, training, and no shortage of ego, I became a great preacher. After this, I went to seminary, took preaching courses and went from great to lousy and back again. In the time since then, I have come to edge of something worse than lousy: complacent. I am the preacher that I am. Perhaps I can improve my pastoring, my Bible knowledge, even my evangelistic methods, but I’ll never be a better preacher than I am today.
Daniel Overdorf’s book, One Year to Better Preaching: 52 Exercises to Hone Your Skills, has been the perfect kick-in-the-pants for me to move past that attitude. This book highlights how almost any preacher can, spread across a year, improve the sermons that he presents.
This is not a book for a seminary or college preaching course—Saving Eutychus or Preaching God’s Word are more suited for the classroom. I would, personally, recommend both of these for a semester-long course. Yet we preaching pastors are not in that classroom these days.
Instead, we have to fit skill-building alongside skill-using. Added to that, we already have our habits of sermon preparation and methods of study. While you can teach an old dog a few new tricks, it is harder to teach a stubborn preacher new ones.
One Year to Better Preaching: 52 Exercises to Hone Your Skills does not attempt to teach all new tricks, though. Instead, Overdorf presents us with simple weekly tasks that will help us pastors improve the level of our preaching. He does not guarantee we will attain to John Chrysostom or Adrian Rogers, but each simple step will help put the edge back on our preaching razor.
These exercises range from forming a prayer group to listening to storytellers to learn their craft. (I recommend Jim Weiss at Greathall Productions, personally, for that.) Additionally, Overdorf provides some suggestions for pastors keeping their devotional life fresh, which we all should recognize as critical for preaching.
Many of Overdorf’s suggestions are things that, when I stop and think about it, I know I should do as a preacher. One Year to Better Preaching: 52 Exercises to Hone Your Skills does not really plow any new ground, nor does it present a new way of preaching that most of us have never considered.
Instead, this is akin to Vince Lombardi’s legendary speech that he allegedly gave the Packers every year: “This, gentleman, is a football.” Overdorf points us back to the sermon and says, effectively, here is a football.
He is encouraging: at no point does he act like he is speaking to slackers or bad preachers. Instead, he points to the idea that we should constantly strive to improve, no matter how good we are at the outset.
My biggest concern for One Year to Better Preaching: 52 Exercises to Hone Your Skills? If you’re a preacher, you need this book and you need to read and use it. If you know a preacher, he needs this book. But I don’t know if I would ever want to receive this as a gift. I might take it the wrong way. And certainly don’t have it anonymously mailed to your pastor’s house or leave it on his pulpit. That would be really, really bad.
So, give him a gift certificate and pray for the best!
Note: I received One Year to Better Preaching: 52 Exercises to Hone Your Skills from Kregel Ministry in exchange for this review.