by Stephen Farris
Westminster John Knox Press
Reviewed by Arthur F. Bell, Retired Minister, Colton, California
As I set out to read, Preaching That Matters; The Bible and Our Lives, by Stephen Farris, I was uncertain as to which direction the author was going. It became clear quite early on that Farris was writing to clergy. This book is an excellent review for ministers on the methods of sermon preparation.
In his introduction, Farris presents three distinct claims. Firstly that God speaks to us. Secondly that God speaks to us through the Bible, and thirdly that God speaks to us through preaching. He then proceeds to explain that in his view there is a missing link in many of our sermon presentations—we use far too few analogies. His working definition of analogy: To ?draw an analogy’ is to make a comparison between the similar features or attributes of two otherwise dissimilar things, so that the unknown, or less well known, is clarified by the known.
Farris perceives that in their sermons, ministers normally do not link the world of the biblical text to the world in which we live and preach. He then proceeds to explain how we can do this through many different techniques. Along with this he gives warning as to the improper use of this method. In conclusion he still desires that the minister remember, The life-giving power in preaching comes not from the preacher’s skill or eloquence, and most certainly not from her or his mastery of homiletic method. It comes from God.
As he proceeds through the book, Farris gives an in-depth study on the preparation of an analogy. He follows with a good warning that, unless the minister studies, meditates and prays, any preparation is in danger of losing the Spirit that is necessary for the message to get through to the congregation. Farris continues to give advice on how to prepare a sermon using analogies, along with details and examples from his own experience. I enjoyed the fact that he gives examples after each concept he presents. In the final chapter he demonstrates how to put the sermon together, modeling the methods he has previously given. Then he follows up with an actual sermon he delivered.
In all, Farris has written a most helpful book for ministers who wish to review some of the techniques of sermon preparation. And he describes how to build a bridge from the biblical text to the realities of our daily lives. A very practical book for use by ministers, students and scholars.