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Book What Not to Say: Avoiding the Common Mistakes That Can Sink Your Sermon by John C. Holbert (2011-11-11)


What Not to Say: Avoiding the Common Mistakes That Can Sink Your Sermon by John C. Holbert (2011-11-11)

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  • Westminster John Knox Press (1793)
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Review Text

  • By Abram Kielsmeier-Jones on June 10, 2012

    Some great preaching advice I once heard: Never say from the pulpit that a certain idea came you to while you were in the shower. Because who wants to think about their pastor in the shower?Or as John C. Holbert and Alyce M. McKenzie put it, "Don't tell stories that involve listeners picturing you naked. ...So you received an insight into the cleansing power of God's love in the shower on the mission trip as the cleansing and healing water cascaded over your body. Find another setting to tell about your epiphany."I set out to read What Not to Say: Avoiding the Common Mistakes That Can Sink Your Sermon, thinking that the book would be full of practical ideas like not sharing shower epiphanies as having taken place in the shower. Yet Holbert and McKenzie also write with theological depth and care as they coach preachers on what not to say and do in the pulpit.Their chapters cover what not to say (and what to say): about God, about the Bible, at the sermon's beginning, about the congregation, in the middle of the sermon, about yourself, in stories, and at the end of the sermon.The goal of the book is "to give very direct advice out of the store of [the authors'] combined sixty years of preaching and over forty years of teaching others how to preach." They write, "It's important in preaching to be as clear about what we are not saying as we are about what we are saying." Here is where the theological depth of the authors comes to the fore, right in the first chapter: "First, affirming the sovereignty of God is not the same as insisting that everything that happens in my life and the world is directly the result of God's actions." The authors have a high view of God's sovereignty, yet caution preachers against saying or implying, "Everything happens for a reason... and that reason is God." Especially in a funeral sermon, for example, they say it's theologically misguided for the preacher to say that God just "needed" the deceased's voice to join the heavenly choir, or wanted "another flower for his heavenly bouquet." God is sovereign, yes, preachers should affirm, but did he really cause a drunk driver to kill your daughter? No, the authors would say; free choice gone awry (i.e., stupidity) caused that. But preachers have to be careful that their words don't somehow affirm that God's sovereignty means He somehow took away that life. He may have allowed it; he didn't ordain it.Though the reader may not always find herself or himself in lock-step with the authors' theology (I think the Bible is more of an "answer book" than they seem to indicate, and I respectfuly disagree with their interpretation of Romans 1, that Paul didn't really understand the nuances of homosexuality), the reader will certainly appreciate their theological, Biblical, and homiletical care that grounds the eminently practical advice they give. The authors' love of the Gospel, of the Church, and of preaching is on full display in these pages... and it inspired me as I read.They get very practical, too. For example, on bad preaching habits (verbal filler, overused non-verbal gestures, etc.), they say: "Anything you do in the pulpit again and again will become over time the source of boredom and finally ridicule. When the youth sit in the balcony and count the number of times you say or do a certain thing, it is time to take stock of your preaching patterns."It would be easy for me to go on about the helpful things I read in this book. I highly recommend it to all who preach or teach, in the Church or elsewhere.(I am grateful to have received a digital galley of What Not to Say for review through Net Galley.)As the authors put it, "Preachers and teachers of preaching like to talk about the preacher's toolbox. That is a positive metaphor. It signifies a repertoire of useful, effective sermonic strategies. There is also a preacher's trash bin, a receptacle where we ought to put all the ineffective sermon strategies we don't ever want to use again."

  • By Kindle Customer on September 8, 2013

    I'm writing this from the perspective of one having preached for over ten years and as one who graduated from seminary.Wow! How I wish this little book filled with great practical advise had found its way into the classroom when I was there. I started reading this book a little skeptically, figuring it might turn out to be a book just for beginners, or just one more book on preaching. Boy was I wrong! The authors' premise for writing a book based on what NOT to say was tremendous. How I wish I had had this sooner... Not only do they explore some of the common pitfalls, they then give you good ideas for what *to* say. Well done.

  • By Ethan R. Longhenry on September 5, 2012

    A practical discussion for those who preach regarding the types of things which cause theological and rhetorical difficulties with sermons.The authors focus on the types of things a preacher should not say about God, the Bible, those hearing them, themselves, at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end, as well as discussing more profitable ways to speak regarding such subjects, themes, or sections.The book is authored by a man and a woman who work for some variant of a mainline Protestant group and their theology and doctrinal stances regarding women, homosexuality, and other such issues reflect it. Such excurses are not inherently part of the book and unnecessarily off-putting for those who might be of a different theological persuasion than the authors and distracts from the generally good, wise, and useful information the book provides.If one can get past the above, one can find such a work useful in terms of strategy and execution of effective sermon planning and presentation.**--book received as galley for review

  • By tctheatc on August 18, 2015

    I found no humor in this book at all, despite back cover reviews and even the intro claiming it's humorous. The examples the authors give of excellent sermon parts were indicative of the kinds of sermons I find boring and uninteresting. To each his own, I suppose.

  • By Phil Price on May 30, 2013

    I purchased this as a kind of review after being 15 years out of seminary and a homiletics class. I found it an approachable resource with some good pointers for how to avoid some of the pitfalls of preaching. However, when I shared it with a lay preacher in our congregation he found it too flippant in its understanding of scripture. I didn't see that, but it could be a challenge for non-seminarians.

  • By Russell Clunan on January 1, 2012

    As a 2009 COS student of Ms. McKinzie at Perkins, I had the opportunity to draw from her preaching skills. Now in book form are some of the practical lessons she put forth to our class. This little tome has a lot going for itself. Full of common sense information and written in an easy style this is definitely a must read. Great for the beginning student or well established Elder. Holbert and McKenzie display wit and warmth. Well done, yes well done.

  • By Jack Conklin on August 31, 2013

    It was a good resource but I thought it was too long, going on and on, repeating much key information.

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