I’ve spent the past year reading books on preaching. I’ll be honest: it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Every single book has been excellent, but every book gives more steps to take, more actions to complete. It can leave the reader exhausted rather than encouraged.
I’m glad I picked On Preaching by H.B. Charles, Jr. as the final book. Charles is an accomplished preacher, but he doesn’t write the book as an expert but as a fellow struggler. I didn’t read the book feeling chided. I read the book thinking, “You too?” Charles provides practical, encouraging advice on preaching, not as a guru but as a pastor. I can’t imagine any preacher not feeling encouraged after reading this book.
I knew I was going to like this book when I saw the title of the introduction: “My Preaching Crisis.” Now, that’s a preaching book I’m going to enjoy!
Advice on Preaching
Charles covers many of the usual topics on preaching: finding time to study, planning a preaching calendar, the preparation process, developing an outline, the use of notes, and more. He also tackles some topics that don’t usually get covered: being yourself in the pulpit, being a guest preacher, preaching as an associate, and losing your cutting edge.
His advice is solid. I can’t think of many times that I disagreed with what Charles wrote. If you are a new preacher or an experienced one who wants to review the basics, then you will benefit from reading this book.
Wisdom on Preaching
Charles doesn’t just offer advice; he also offers wisdom, even encouragement. You get the sense reading the book that Charles has faced every obstacle common to preachers, and he gets it. He’s a working preacher, which means that he has sat where I sit. Charles has the wisdom and experience to not only understand but to guide us through the struggle.
Do you struggle in finding time to prepare? Charles tackles this issue as only a fellow pastor could. Do you want to preach without notes? Charles cheers you on but isn’t rigid about it. “If I need the manuscript, an extended outline, or an index card of notes, so be it. I will not sacrifice content for style,” he writes. Do you want to be a somebody? Charles has struggled with this too and recounts the advice that one of his preaching heroes gave him.
Charles is like a wise preaching mentor: less like the homiletics professor who’s mastered the theory, and more like an older preaching brother who’s mastered the practice.
Read It to Be Reminded and Encouraged
I have a friend who refused to attend preaching workshops because he doesn’t want to feel discouraged about everything he’s been doing wrong. I get it. If you are a preacher, you know how easy it is to get discouraged. You already know that you fall far short of where you’d like to be.
I can’t think of a better book for pastors who want to be reminded of the basics without feeling discouraged. Charles reminds us of the basics, but he also comes alongside and encourages us. He walks with us, not ahead of us.
God is good. As I finish this yearlong reading project, I’m grateful for a book on preaching that encourages. If you are a pastor, I think you’ll find this book encouraging too. We need to do better at preaching, but we also need to hear from someone who knows what we’re going through. This book helps us with both, and I’m grateful.
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