Preaching with Variety by Jeffery Arthurs

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levi-jonesReviewed by Levi Jones – Associate Discipleship Pastor, Victory Hills, Church of the Nazarene, Kansas City, Kansas, USA

The bibliographical resources are from reputable resources. Arthurs uses ideas from several well-known preachers and theologians: Thom Long, Fred Craddock, David Buttrick, Robert Alter, and C. S. Lewis, to name a few. Although Arthurs does quote Elizabeth Achtemeier, his sources are scantly filled by women or minorities. This is a real drawback to the book in terms of holistic styles of preaching.

God is the “Great Communicator.” Scripture is the means by which God communicates with us. Within Scripture, there is a variety of genres and literature types. If God uses variety, then there is a good reason for us to use variety in our sermons as well. The variety of literature also provides for a variety of responses in the audience. Through these various modes of communication, we are able to look at the facets of reality.

Preaching with variety also involves preaching in the vernacular of our congregations. If we cannot communicate in culturally appropriate ways, it may be difficult for our audience to receive the messages we send. In our present context, we need to engage the visual senses. Likewise, personal experience and participation is expected in our sermons. Although sermons are auditory and oral events, we must find ways to include a holistic experience that engages the entire person. Long-term learning best occurs in this environment.

The contents of the book are separated into several genres: psalms, narratives, parables, proverbs, epistles, and apocalyptic literature. Each of these forms communicates in a different fashion, whether through song, story, metaphor, or logical progression. Each form has its own peculiar way of communicating. Sermons in some way should mimic the intention of the genre. In this way, the impact of the genre might also be upheld. Fred Craddock states, “Let doxologies be shared doxologically, narratives narratively, polemics polemically, and parables parabolically. In other words, biblical preaching ought to be biblical” (166).

This might include making a brief statement to summarize your sermons over a Proverb. Or, it might include singing or responsive readings in the sermon of particular Psalms. Perhaps, instead, they would be poetic in describing God’s activity. Apocalyptic might use symbols, hymns, and doxologies to convey its contents of God’s victory. Story might be woven throughout a sermon to help the audience identify with the characters of a narrative. Dialogue and discourse might be implemented to convey an epistle’s meaning. The impact of the genre, rather than its exact form, is a vehicle for transporting meaning from the text to the audience.

Overall, I thought this book was extremely helpful in understanding the Biblical genres and how their forms might be implemented in a sermon. Although we do not have to be slaves to the genres, they provide some very creative frameworks from which to construct your sermon. In doing so, one can potentially keep some of the intentions of the text for the contemporary audience.

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