As part of A Year of Books on Preaching, I’m posting a review a month of a preaching book, and then a list of quotes and takeaways.

I posted a review of Why Johnny Can’t Preach earlier this week. Here are some of the top quotes and takeaways from his book.

Top Ten Quotes

In my opinion, less than 30 percent of those who are ordained to the Christian ministry can preach an even mediocre sermon… (Kindle Location 48)

When something is well done, we do not complain about its length. (Kindle Locations 231-232)

Show me a church where the preaching is good, and yet the church is still moribund. I’ve never seen such a church. (Kindle Locations 281-282)

We are swamped by the inconsequential, bombarded by images and sounds that rob us of the opportunity for reflection and contemplation that are necessary to reacquaint ourselves with what is significant. (Kindle Locations 540-541)

For a minister today to preach a basic average sermon by early-twentieth-century standards would require a lifestyle that is significantly countercultural. (Kindle Locations 635-636)

Faith is built by careful, thorough exposition of the person, character, and work of Christ. (Kindle Locations 712-713)

Preach Christ, and you will have morality. Fill the sails of your hearers’ souls with the wind of confidence in the Redeemer, and they will trust him as their Sanctifier, and long to see his fruit in their lives. Fill their minds and imaginations with a vision of the loveliness and perfection of Christ in his person, and the flock will long to be like him. Impress upon their weak and wavering hearts the utter competence of the mediation of the One who ever lives to make intercession for them, and they will long to serve and comfort others, even as Christ has served and comforted them. (Kindle Locations 738-742)

Nothing is more important for Christian proclamation than the central realities of the person, character, and work of Christ. (Kindle Locations 876-877)

If those who were preparing for the ministry (or those already in it) understood how profoundly different they are from people who lived even forty years ago, they could begin the process of cultivating those traits that our culture does not cultivate, by a deliberate and disciplined use of their own time. (Kindle Locations 904-906).

An individual without time to read broadly and intensely, without time to reflect on life, without time to compose (even if merely in a personal journal), is not likely to be an individual who can preach. (Kindle Locations 1027-1029).


  • Develop the discipline to choose the weighty and transcendent in life, rather than the trivial and urgent.
  • Find a way to get regular feedback on your preaching. One way to get feedback is an annual review.
  • Learn how to read texts carefully. Study English or classical languages; read great literature and poetry.
  • Learn how to write well. Compose letters by hand, and do some form of disciplined writing.
  • Join a secular public speaking group, such as the Rotary Club or Toastmasters.
  • Guard against being run minister ragged with clerical, administrative, and other duties so that you have time to read, write, and reflect.

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