Preachers need books on the theology of preaching, works that demonstrate its biblical warrant. Preachers also need how-to books on the preparation and delivery of sermons. Carelessly crafted sermons dishonor the Savior, as does a delivery that fails to compel attention.
But there is a third kind of book on preaching that preachers will do well to read. These books offer the mature reflections on the intangibles of preaching—matters of pastoral bearing, mental attitude, and habits of preparation. Jonathan T. Pennington, preaching pastor at Sojourn East Church in Louisville, Kentucky and associate professor at Southern Seminary, provides just this kind of book in Small Preaching.
The book’s twenty-five brief essays fall under three headings: the person of the preacher, the preparation for preaching, and the practice of preaching.
In section one—the person of the preacher—the author clarifies important interactions that take place between congregation and preacher. The pastor must be able to receive both praise and criticism with grace. On the one hand, ministries are crippled when preachers seek the affirmation of men instead of the approbation of God. On the other hand, the inability to receive criticism has left many ministers angry, hurting, and wracked by doubt. Pennington’s counsel is sound: “The wise pastor will look at praise not as an idolatrous source of life but as a gift that enables a healthy life” (12) and will view criticism as “an opportunity for growth” (15).