Let me be clear here at the outset: I’m not a preacher. Why then am I interested in reading books on preaching? The short answer is that I am a teacher and I want to be a better one. I want to improve not only in regard to Biblical interpretation and proper application but also in lesson preparation and delivery. To that end books like Saving Eutychus by Gary Millar and Phil Campbell are both helpful and beneficial.
With its rather tongue-in-cheek title referring to the incident in Acts 20 whereby poor Eutychus dozes off listening to Paul’s lengthy exposition, falling to his death only to be resuscitated by the apostle himself, Saving Eutychus is, by the authors’ description, a primer on “how to preach God’s word and keep people awake.” Included in its instruction is not only the case for expositional preaching but also pointers for developing the main idea of a given passage as well as the necessity of preaching the gospel no matter the text. The proper use of illustration and application is also highlighted. Of particular interest to me was the chapter on preaching through the Old Testament using a “biblical-theological approach.” The book concludes with the importance of receiving feedback followed by critiques of actual sermons preached by each of the book’s two authors.
This being a book on preaching after all, not all its points correspond directly to me and my teaching ministry, the case for a 23 minute sermon for example. And I’m not sure I will be scripting my lessons though I found the authors’ advocacy of such practice interesting. That being said, I really liked this book and enjoyed its practical, concise instruction and its encouragement to be winsome and passionate about the lesson being taught. Authors Millar and Campbell are engaging yet direct and their commitment to the eager proclamation of the gospel is evident throughout the book.
Saving Eutychus is a book I will refer to often as I prepare my lessons. Its value, though, extends beyond merely technical aspects of preaching and teaching. The first chapter clearly reminds the humble teacher (me) that it is not about her. In other words, preachers and teachers must pray. Millar writes…
[W]e seem to be losing sight of the fact that God uses weak and sinful people, and that he uses them only by grace. That’s true in your local church and mine. It’s also true of every podcast and ebook and conference address under the sun. God doesn’t use people because they are gifted. He uses people (even preachers) because he is gracious. Do we actually believe that? If we do believe it, then we will pray–we will pray before we speak, and we will pray for others before they speak. It’s that simple.
This theme is echoed in the afterword. I hope the authors do not mind me quoting it here as I think it perfectly encapsulates both the teacher’s calling as well as the book’s emphasis.
What, then, can we say? Pray. Preach gospel-centered sermons from your heart to change hearts. Pray. Wrestle with God’s word until you have a big idea that faithfully communicates and applies that idea clearly and winsomely. Pray. Apply the message to yourself. Pray. Preach the gospel from everywhere in the Bible. Pray. Deliver your message with the energy and passion that only God can give you. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Pray. Seek and receive critique on your preaching. Pray some more. Preach. Pray. Repeat.
Yes and amen. Let it be so in me!
Whether you proclaim the gospel from the pulpit or from the teacher’s chair I highly recommend Saving Eutychus.
This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by Cross Focused Reviews who provided me with a free copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion. See more reviews of this title as well as purchasing options here.