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It’s Easier to Catch a Baseball than a Handful of Sand

Gary Millar and Phil Campbell have a passion for teaching the Bible book by book in a way that is scripturally faithful and also engaging. The challenge for any preacher lies in working hard to exegete the biblical text in order to preach it in a way that fits your own personality and delivery style, while enabling those listening to think more clearly and deeply about its contemporary relevance in their lives.

There’s no doubt that God by his Holy Spirit works through preaching. There are days when you feel like you delivered a solid word, and there are days when you’re sure the sermon fell completely flat, and yet people can end up acknowledging Christ as Saviour and Lord just as readily despite your own evaluation. It’s easy to blame the listener with “I’m only responsible for what I say, not what you hear” (which is surely highly irresponsible) but even if you’re not a gifted communicator, your task is always to ensure your delivery is clear, simple, and direct.
Phil’s top 10 tips for being clearer include advice like ‘the more you say, the less people remember’, ‘choose the shortest, most ordinary words you can’, and ‘forget everything your English teacher taught you (a.k.a. natural, spoken-but-not-always-correct English is your friend)’. Saving Eutycus equips the preacher with the tools to enable your church family to listen well, in order that God’s Word may bring genuine heart change every week.

One of my biggest takeaways from Gary and Phil was the importance of distilling the passage into one ‘big idea’. As a theology student, I’m always tempted to deliver a paper that includes every interesting thing I can find out about a passage. Old Testament allusions. Eschatological promises. Redemptive-historical trajectories. But to preach a whole string of interesting but highly disjointed ideas in a mosaic of look-what-I-know is nothing more than me showing off, and hardly anyone will go away with a tangible point that is relevant to them today. Phil sums it up best: “it’s easier for your listeners to catch a baseball than a handful of sand”.

With a focus on equipping – not entertaining – Saving Eutychus should be read by theology students and preachers everywhere, then re-read a few times throughout their ministry.

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Published inBook Reviews