As a pastor, I try to read homiletics books from time to time to help me continue to grow as a Christian preacher. I recently purchased Saving Eutychus by Gary Millar and Phil Campbell (two Presbyterian pastors from Australia). I want to point out this brief book here because it is a good resource on preaching.
I recommend this book because it is like a good sermon: biblical, to the point, gospel-centered, and applicable. Millar and Campbell are firmly committed to expository preaching that has Christ at the center. There’s even a brief chapter in the book on how biblical theology relates to the pulpit (and how it doesn’t!). I also appreciated their emphasis on prayer and sermon prep. The authors don’t cover every topic in this book, but they touch on the basics in a way that is helpful for developing the skill of good preaching.
As with all homiletics books, there are things in Saving Eytychus that are debatable. For example, one of the authors is committed to sermons that are around 20 minutes long. Some might argue that a few points in this book are cultural (i.e. the need to use short, simple words in sermons). One author gave a sermon example in which a slide presentation and video clip were used. This struck me as odd since the entire book is about biblical, expository preaching of a text. Presenting a video clip in corporate worship is not preaching! Some of the argumentative force of the book was lost on me because of this.
However, I still recommend this resource on preaching. I needed to read this book as a good reminder to keep studying the text hard and with much prayer. I was glad to be reminded of the need to fight against monotone and dry preaching and was happy to read ways how to improve on sermon delivery. The emphasis on “the big idea” of the sermon was also a good one; point well taken!
Here are a few of my favorite quotes.
“Just about the worst thing that can happen when we finish preaching is that someone will walk out of the door of the church buoyed by their own resolve to try harder” (p. 77).
“The key to preaching…is to make the message of the text obvious. Help people to see it and feel it. Help people to understand the text” (p. 29).
“When I listen to you preach, do I want to see that you have grappled with the biblical theological implications of the text? Yes, I do. Do I want listening to a sermon feel like sitting at home reading a book on biblical theology? No, I don’t. There is a difference between doing biblical theology and preaching in a way that is shaped by biblical theology” (p. 91).
This isn’t an “end all” book on homiletics. Millar and Campell don’t do everything in this book. But what they do include is extremely helpful. I’ve already made a few slight changes in my own sermon preparation and delivery. In fact, I’m confident it will be a blessing for pastors who have labored for three months or thirty-five years.
rev shane lems