Sermon Analysis for Pulpit Power. By H. C. Brown, Jr. Nashville: Broad-man Press, 1971. 61 pages. Paper, $.95.
The author’s purpose is to provide the minister a critical analysis for his preaching. Ninety-five questions are proposed for the testing of the biblical quality and homiletic structure of sermons. The questions provide a kind of private seminary classroom setting for the examination of week-to-week preparation for the pulpit.
The minister who has never studied with or read Brown could find himself impatient with the tests of preaching suggested. His reaction could be that the analysis is mechanical or arbitrary. He could conclude that his preaching techniques are “beyond” such examination. For such a reader, three suggestions are in order.
It will be helpful to study this brief work along with Professor Brown’s previous major work, A Quest for Reformation in Preaching (Nashville: Broad-man Press, 1971, reprint). In the larger book the author sets out in detail his sense of the primacy of biblical preaching for legitimate proclamation and his ideas on sermonic form and content. A fuller knowledge of this distinguished professor’s basic homiletic theses will assist the reader in understanding the capsule suggestions here projected.
It will also be helpful if the reader will turn immediately to chapter ten before he proceeds to consider the entire book. There, in material which could have been included in the introduction, Professor Brown expresses his basic spirit as a teacher of preaching. He admits that homiletic form and style are not static and that they are taught in various legitimate ways by professors and great preachers. This means that every minister should use his imagination to build his own sermon forms. If the reader understands this at the outset he will be less likely to react to the analysis offered as arbitrary.
Finally, all ministers need to face up to the fact that experience never precludes at least occasional restudy of the basic rules of homiletics. Brown wants to point out a great danger always present with ministers, in spite of our freedom to produce our own homiletic styles. In attempting to “protect” our sermon methods, we can find ourselves in most difficult homiletic ruts without recognizing them. The typical attitude, “homiletics is for the beginner,” can trap us into a stunted growth as preachers. This book of self–analysis, then, is of great value. Here are vital principles which every preacher needs to study from time to time, no matter how long he has worked at the job of preparing sermons or how much his style may vary from that presented. No minister’s sermons are so perfect that they cannot be improved!
Certain convictions which are a part of Professor Brown’s passionate beliefs about preaching are clearly evident. He insists on biblical authority for all true sermons. He has genuine impatience with laziness either in biblical exegesis or in sermon preparation. He believes that preaching is the major task of the pastor, even in a time when this is seriously questioned by many. He pleads that only by the use of a clear “line of direction” from the text to the sermon thesis to the title to the body of the sermon can the best communication be achieved. And most important of all, he understands both the audacity and the grandeur of preaching.
One gets the impression that this kind of man, a teacher who believes in preaching as Brown does, can offer help to every open-minded minister. Indeed e has so helped hundreds of seminary students and now seeks to extend that humble but convincing instruction to many who have never sat at his feet in a classroom. The closing words of the small book portray Brown’s interest in all ministers and extend the challenge which prompted the composition of this writing and which gives it its true worth: “You can improve as a preacher. Why don’t you?”