© 2009 B&H, Nashville
A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to attend a short retreat for pastors in Indiana. It was a pleasant weekend with a group of mostly young, hungry preachers. I think I was one of the four over the age of 35 (including the leaders and presenters). Our key speaker for the event was another young preacher who serves a growing congregation in Raleigh, North Carolina, while teaching preaching on the side at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. No, he didn’t look like a preacher or a preaching professor—at least not one from our day (maybe more the camel’s hair clothes and locust diet variety), but he knew what he was talking about. Not only that, but he was personable with all of the participants in the weekend. His name was Tony Merida.
I’ll admit that I’m a little long in the tooth to be reading fresh books that teach preachers how to craft and present their sermons, but I find that it always helps to be refreshed in what you know. So, I’ve picked up a stack of preaching texts and am slowly working my way through them.
Merida offers up a book with a fresh look at preaching that (while it hearkens back to the preparation texts of yesteryear) is unique in its presentation. Designed to be used by the student of preaching, the book takes the reader through a step by step process that should lead to solid biblical preaching. The author insists that the Gospel preacher must remain faithful to the text of the Scripture in order to present the message from God. (I’ll agree with this assessment with a hearty “Amen!”)
Throughout the book as a closing to each chapter, Merida leads his readers through this step by step process in preparing messages based on the books of 1 and 2 Timothy. This is helpful for the young preacher in order to set strong study and preparation disciplines as he is learning to preach.
The early chapters setting the foundation for expository sermon preparation are the most helpful in the book. The reading slows down as Merida turns to the actual delivery and character of the preacher. He leaves a lot of room in delivery understanding that all preachers are different and are to be themselves in the pulpit. These aspects of delivery and lifestyle are often omitted from typical texts dedicated to sermon preparation. And even if the reading does slow down, the necessity for addressing these matters in a sermon prep book are utterly welcome. Many preachers do really well in their study time and pulling together the right connections when writing their sermons, but fall apart when trying to present these nuggets of knowledge to their audience.
Every young preacher needs to start his education with this book. And I would daresay that many old preachers would benefit from using this textbook as well. I give it four and one-half reading glasses out of five.
—Benjamin Potter, August 9, 2013