Power in the Pulpit by Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix
In the latter part of the 20th century, no Southern Baptist pastor was more decidedly expositional in his preaching than Jerry Vines. I was a young teenager surrendered to God’s call on my life the first time I heard him speak. The concept of text-driven preaching was foreign to me then, but it was apparent that this man seemed to approach the biblical text more seriously than most who stand behind the pulpit. From that moment forward I determined to not only believe the Scriptures, but to use them in my daily preaching and pastoral ministry. When Moody Press published two of Dr. Vines’ previous books under the title Power in the Pulpit shortly thereafter, I quickly devoured every word.
Though other homiletics books offer a more robust philosophy and theory of preaching, this volume brings the expertise of a master practitioner who is anxious to help readers prepare and deliver messages on a weekly basis. Written by a pastor for pastors, Power in the Pulpit offers a more thorough handling of preaching mechanics than other works in the same genre. My understanding of preaching has certainly grown over the years, but I still utilize and practice many of the insights within its pages every week.
Before standing behind the sacred desk, the preacher must prepare himself
After discussing the nature and benefits of expository teaching, Vines maintains that a clear call to ministry and a high view of Scripture are essential in order to communicate the Bible effectively. By emphasizing one’s personal worship and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, he rightly prioritizes the spiritual dimension of preaching that is often overlooked. In addition, Vines insists, “The contemporary preacher must give attention to the issues of character and integrity, intellectual development, physical fitness, and study habits” (71). These applicable insights promote a healthy, robust pulpit ministry while guarding against the exhaustion of burnout.
Preparing to preach is just as important as delivering the message
In discussing the process of building expository sermons, Vines asserts that the preacher’s highest priority is to discover “what the Holy Spirit was saying when He inspired a particular passage of Scripture” (91). His clear priority is to allow the text to determine the content, arrangement, and presentation of truth. After mining the rich content of Scripture, the expositor must transition from the Bible world to the contemporary setting with a concise propositional statement from which the entire sermon is built (134). Doing so will allow the sermon structure to reinforce the central idea of the text so that the messenger remains a servant of Scripture rather than vice-versa.
Once the meaning and structure of a text are obvious, deciding what elements are necessary for communicating to your audience is essential. Through a process of amplification (determining your explanations, arguments, applications, and illustrations) and incubation (creatively weaving all your material together), creating an inspirational sermon is possible. By writing the conclusion, invitation, and introduction last, we can successfully elucidate the themes and proposition of the message. This practical discussion for building powerful sermons moves readers from knowing how they should preach to feeling like they can.
How we deliver sermons has never been more important
In his final section, Vines stresses the importance of engaging sermon delivery. He correctly contends that “we do not study effective delivery techniques to displace or even complement the work of the Spirit, but instead that we might not hinder it” (313). His discussion of preaching styles, vivid language, and persuasion techniques is invaluable. The mechanics of using your voice persuasively are not new but thoroughly developed. Vines’ insight on caring for your voice is a unique contribution enabling preachers to increase the longevity of their preaching ministry. With examples and lessons born out of over forty years of pastoral experience, his exhortations strike the careful balance of instructing without discouraging. Whether its using manuscripts or preaching without notes, Vines covers nearly every practical consideration of sermon delivery.
A trusted handbook for the busy pastor
While many authors write considerable contributions to the field of homiletics, few do so with the experience and example of Jerry Vines. During his 24 years as pastor of First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida, he taught expositionally through every book of Bible, faithfully modeling a text-driven approach to preaching. Others will dive deeper into the rules and philosophies of sermon theory, but none can rival the pastoral instruction found within Power and the Pulpit. Every preacher should not only own this book, but revisit its content again and again.
ABOUT: Dr. Adam Dooley is the Senior Pastor of Sunnyvale First Baptist Church in Dallas, TX.