The Best Books on Preaching--Part 2

Part 2—Planning Your Preaching, Stephen Nelson Rummage, 2002, Kregel

In the last post on the best books on preaching, I encouraged you to read the book written by David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preachingand Preachers.  With this post, I hope to inspire you to read a book entitled PlanningYour Preaching by Stephen Rummage.  If you have been a reader of this blog for any length of time, you will have discovered that I have been a strong supporter of expository orverse-by-verse preaching.  There is no more solid way to instruct the church and yourself in the concepts of spiritual growth than moving through the Scriptures at a steady pace.  It also encourages people to read their Bibles and it causes the minister to become adept at understanding what God has to say about things rather than our own human leanings.  If you want to know what God thinks, you have to read His Book because it is there that He has spoken! 

All of the books that I am going to review with you this month are not necessarily in an order of importance.  Also you may have to hunt them down as some of them may be older books and no longer in circulation. 

The second book was another one of those books that I just happened to run across as I was browsing through our local Family Christian bookstore in Dothan several years ago.  Periodically when I would leave the hospital early and have a space of time before picking up my kids from school, I would go to our Family Christian store because it was just around the corner from their school.  Many books that are in my personal library now came during those times when I was waiting for them.  Many books that I have greatly benefited from are those that I just happened to “accidentally” find.  Rummage’s book is such a one. 

The idea of planning your preaching sounds absolutely foreign to most Pentecostal preachers because of the nature of our spiritual setting.  We are generally men who are moved by a sense of spontaneity and want to be sensitive to the Spirit with our preaching.  Most Pentecostal preachers, from the old-fashioned bent, generally find the growth of sermons beginning with a place of prayer.  I still ardently support this genesis of sermon preparation because I believe firmly that prayer is the most important preparation (although not the only) we can do to preach. 

Some years back when I started posting my notes to SermonCentral, in the process I discovered something about my preaching.  It was all limited to about two themes, revival and encouragement.  The revival sermons were all about consecration and the need for total surrender to God.  The encouragement, some preachers call it “faith preaching,” sermons were what I call “atta boy” sermons.  The sort of you “can make it, God’s gonna help you” stuff that is about a mile wide and an inch deep.  I was convicted by majoring on those two themes when the Bible is loaded with more than just revival and encouragement.  It was then that I came to understand that we can get messages in prayer but if we are not careful we can find ourselves preaching the same material over and over.  A preacher can end up riding his favorite hobby horses or unconsciously concentrating on his personal struggles.  If we do this we become guilty of neglecting other important truths needed for a fully mature church.    

When I saw Rummage’s book, I was taken in by it.  I read it through in about a week and then went back and re-read it looking for more insight into what he was proposing.  While it may sound absolutely foreign to you to take a calendar and look at what you are going to be preaching in a year’s time, there are some great merits to it.  You will discover that your mind will begin to get both spiritual and creative about your preaching. 
The first chapter is very straightforward and Rummage lists ten reasons that you ought to plan your preaching.  With each point there are several paragraphs that go along with the point and help structure and defend his position.  They are as follow:

1.      Planning your preaching allows for greater leadership of the Holy Spirit.
2.     Planning creates greater diversity in your preaching.
3.     Through planning, you will be able to teach your congregation systematically.
4.     Planning aids in developing meaningful and cohesive worship services.
5.     Planning saves time.
6.     Planning protects your time.
7.      Planning enables you to address timely subjects.
8.     Planning helps you build your library.
9.     Planning reduces stress.
10. Planning heightens your creativity.

In chapter three, called The Mechanics of Preaching, Rummage spends time telling us how to take a look at a year’s worth of preaching.  Again he writes in the form of a list with much instruction following each of these headings.

1.      Schedule a planning retreat.
2.     Gather the materials you will need to create your plan.
3.     Review your preaching from previous years.
4.     Determine major series for the coming year’s preaching.
5.     Create a preaching calendar.
6.     Review and modify your plan occasionally during the year.

The planning retreat need not necessarily be a thing of great expense.  It can be a day trip somewhere where you can be free of distractions and have the ability to put the world on hold long enough to get your soul and brains straight.  Planning materials are a Bible, personal calendar, church calendar, district and national calendar, civic and community calendar, and the record of last year’s preaching.  I hope that you know what you preached last year!  The only way to know this is to make a list and keep track of it.  There are multiple ways to do this.  You can create an Excel spreadsheet that has basic elements to it.  I personally use a program called SermonNet that was created by Darrell Harrell, John Harrell’s son, which is very good!  It keeps track to the Scripture, topic, date, location, and so forth that make searching through where you have preached very easy. 

There two chapters called Preaching the Ordinances and Planning for Doctrinal Preaching which I enjoyed because it caused me to think of the doctrinal tones that every preacher must address in our generation.  Again, Rummage gives a list of the reasons that preachers ought to preach doctrine.  Doctrine is not a dirty word! 

1.      Teaching doctrine is the preacher’s duty.
2.     Doctrine is central in the biblical revelation.
3.     Doctrinal preaching addresses the doubts and questions of the listeners.
4.     Doctrinal preaching meets the needs of listeners to be grounded in their faith.
5.     Careful attention to doctrine ensures evangelistic preaching. 

Doctrinal preaching will make your mind grow!  It is hard work to mine out the doctrines about God, the deity of Jesus Christ, and the work of the Holy Ghost.  Other doctrines such as the doctrine of man, the church, the Bible, angels and demons, heaven and hell, can all be beneficial for a church to grasp and understand.  Rummage gives an incredible quote by Phillips Brooks on the power of doctrinal preaching.

Phillips Brooks—No preaching ever had any strong power that was not the preaching of doctrine.  The preachers that have moved and held men have always preached doctrine.  No exhortation to a good life that does not put behind it some truth as deep as eternity can seize and hold the conscience.  Preach doctrine, preach all the doctrine you know, and learn forever more and more; but preach it always, not that men may believe it, but that men may be saved by believing it.  So it shall be live, not dead.  So men shall rejoice and not decry it.  So they shall feed on it at your hands as on the bread of life, solid and sweet, and claiming for itself the appetite of man which God made for it.        

Another extremely helpful section for me was the section called Difficulties of Pastoral Preaching.  Perhaps to use the old E. E. Jolley manner, “The price of the book is worth this section right here!”  as he would underline it with a pencil.  Here is what Rummage lists as the difficulties and tension that exists between pastoral ministry and preaching:

1.      A man is not ready to preach pastorally until he knows his congregation.
2.     A pastor must be careful not to substitute psychology or moralizing for biblical proclamation and spiritual transformation.
3.     A pastor cannot know or accurately diagnose all of his congregation’s needs.
4.     An approach to preaching that is based on solving human problems will deprive the congregation of essential Bible teaching.  

Another benefit of this book is all of the titles and accompanying references that Rummage places in it.  You will find many thoughts that will be like a cup of water to a prime a manual hand pump for a well.  Books that stimulate the soul are worth their weight in gold.  The last great benefit of this book is the fruitful bibliography at the end that is useful for those who want to run down even more books on this subject.  

More later. . .

Thanks for reading. . .  


Ken Gurley said…
Phillip, a wonderful theme you're exploring. The greatest challenge of a preacher is to declare the "whole counsel of God" and not to major on a single theme to the neglect of others. For example, messages on the love of God should be balanced, not necessarily within each message, but with other messages on His justice. To preach repetitiously on a single theme is ultimately to preach heresy.
Nate Whitley said…
Bro. Harrelson, Thank you for writing these posts. I've been promoting them. Of course, I'm reading them and eating them up! I will be purchasing this book immediately.
Thank you once again.
Vance Bowman said…

Excellent once again. I had never heard of this book, now I'm going to hunt it down and purchase a copy. Thanks!


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