Book Review: Preaching that Connects

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Galli, Mark, and Craig Brian Larson. Preaching that Connects: Using Journalistic Techniques to Add Impact. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.

Galli and Larson offer journalistic tools for preachers to help them communicate better in their sermons. Both authors have pastoral and journalism experience. Galli is a former pastor and  senior managing editor of Christianity Today. Larson is a pastor in Chicago and chief editor for PreachingToday.com.

Before explaining what this book offers it is important to understand what kind of instruction it is not providing. This book is not a step by step instruction on sermon preparation to help the reader understand Scripture by taking the reader from exegesis to application. The authors state two critical assumptions. One is that the reader has “some background in exegetical and traditional homiletics.” The second is that their suggestions are shallow if the reader is not a “disciplined student of the Word and of preaching” dependent upon the Holy Spirit to “empower the preaching moment.” (11-12)

Rather, this book teaches how to hone the sermon and transform it into language that clearly communicates and impacts the hearers. This is done using journalism techniques. I am familiar with these techniques since my wife has the equivalence of a minor in journalism. I read through one of her main journalism books and Preaching That Connects is a great summary of such a book.

I picked up this book on the recommendation of a friend. After checking it out and seeing the foreword was by Haddon Robinson, I thought I’d give it a shot. I was not disappointed. The authors not only explain the techniques, but they offer examples of them. This makes it easier for the reader who may be unfamiliar with these techniques.

The contents are as follows:

  1. Love Your Hearers as Yourself
  2. How to Be More Creative
  3. Introductions That Get Listeners
  4. Structuring Your Sermon for Maximum Effect
  5. When You Can’t Find an Illustration
  6. Good Illustrations – and Great Ones
  7. How to Tell a Good Story
  8. A Forceful Style
  9. Crafting Words That Inspire
  10. Pacing
  11. Finishing Strong
  12. Preaching Within Yourself – and Beyond

A better understanding of what this book offers can be seen in the following two examples. When explaining how to use illustrations the authors explain a Journalism 101 technique -show rather than tell. Showing brings listeners into the story where they can see for themselves. For example,

“Johnny was mad” is telling; “Johnny turned red, clenched his teeth, and pounded his fist on the table” is telling. (76)

The authors use a biblical example in chapter Crafting Words That Inspire to show how a well crafted phrase can be appealing.

Many biblical phrases could be shortened, but the periphrasis appeals to the heart and imagination. Instead of saying, David loves me, God says, “I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22). (114)

Preaching That Connects is short and easy to read with many examples. This makes it a good quick reference book for instruction and ideas for using journalism techniques in preaching. Working through the suggestions in this book should also help the preacher work through his thoughts to clarify what he is really trying to say. Ultimately, it should help the preacher more clearly communicate and connect with listeners. Not only is this book good to help communication in preaching, but it could also help one become a better writer.

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The above article was posted on May 17, 2010 by Mark Lamprecht.
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