Planning Your Preaching by Stephen Nelson Rummage

Critical Book Review
Planning Your Preaching by Stephen Nelson Rummage

Bibliographical Entry
 Rummage, Stephen Nelson. Planning Your Preaching: A Step-by-Step Guide for Developing a One-Year Preaching Calendar.  Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2002.

Author Information
            Stephen Nelson Rummage is the author of two books—Praying With a Purpose: a 28-Day Journey into an Empowered Prayer Life, which he co-authored with his wife, and Planning Your Preaching: a Step-by-Step Guide for Developing a One-Year Preaching Calendar, which is the subject of this review.  Rummage was ordained to the ministry in 1991 and has served as Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Cary, North Carolina, Hickory Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and most recently at Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Florida.  His undergraduate degree was granted from University of North Carolina in Greensboro and he holds a Masters of Divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Doctorate in Philosophy in Preaching from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.  In addition, Professor Rummage has held teaching positions at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and presently at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.  He and Michelle—his wife of 18-years—have one son.[1]   

Content Summary
             Stephen Rummage has not set out to write a ‘how to develop a single sermon’ book; but instead, he shares, “how all of your preaching can fit together into one cohesive plan so that your pulpit ministry can grow in its effectiveness” (p 13).  Because Rummage believes that great sermons are not single events, but a collection of many planned events, he writes Planning your Preaching with the purpose to “help pastors put together a quarterly, six-month, or yearly schedule for what they will preach” (p 14).  He writes to a reader who is presently serving in the pastorate and planning a Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and a mid-week sermon; however, the material is easily adaptable to fit a different combination of service planning.

Sadly, it is necessary that Rummage must open his book with an argument for advanced planning on what one will preach, and even how a preacher should preach.  Preaches are, according to Rummage, to preach biblically, consistently, persuasively, and patiently (pp 18-21).  And using Scriptures, examples, illustrations, and logical arguments, Rummage lays out a convincing argument for the advance planning of sermons and sermon series.  Finally, he is able to move on to the next chapter, where any preacher who has picked up this book wants to start—determining a preaching strategy.  Covering the foundation of the planning process, subjects such as style of sermon delivery (notes vs. no notes, for example), understanding the needs and demographics of the congregation, and determining the objectives of the preaching are handled in the second chapter.  Once this is understood, Rummage instructs preachers to pack up their calendars, some reading materials, and study Bibles and go somewhere, alone, to construct a preaching plan for a year.  At this planning retreat the preacher will determine which series he will work though, with a distinction being made between thematic series and book series (p 66).  Rummage makes a strong case for expository preaching, be it verse-by-verse through an entire book, parts of a book, or even selected passages from each chapter of the book.  In any case, work must be done to determine how that will look and Chapter 4 provides the nuts-and-bolts of this kind of preparation.
Chapters 5 and 6 deal with the Ordinances and special days, respectively; and Chapter 7 addresses planning for doctrinal preaching.  Chapter 8 opens the door for pastoral preaching, that is, on a topic rather than what is customarily understood as expository (although Rummage argues that pastoral preaching can be expository preaching with the right motives (pp 169-171)); but, Rummage warns, “If a pastor plans his preaching around addressing personal problems in his congregation, he will have a tendency to preach on what people want to hear rather than what God wants to say” (177).

In what this author believes is the most fascinating chapter, Chapter 9, Rummage addresses the use of the Christian Year and the lectionary.  While this chapter is not necessary to the main theme of the book, and many preachers might be tempted to pass over it, Rummage provides some material that if used in sermon planning, can infuse interesting ideas that are not well known or understood in today’s Evangelical churches.  “During the past several decades,” argues Rummage, “a new interest in the Christian Year has developed, even among churches that had once eschewed its use” (p185).  This being the case, Rummage provides some tools to successfully using the Christian Year and a lectionary.  And Chapter 10 closes the book with how to put the preaching plan into action.   

             Generally being overly critical of how-to books that lay out a specific plan for doing anything in the ministry, I actually found this book extremely helpful.  Planning your Preaching, served as the guide to my first attempt to plan a year of sermons.  I am extremely happy with that plan and Rummage’s guidance deserves the bulk of the earthly credit.   The book is well written and Rummage provides enough explanation to make his points but does not overwork the obvious.  His experience pours from the pages, yet, he does not simply fall back to it; rather, he provides logical information that is not depended upon the experience of only one preacher.  If there were any change that might improve the work, it would be the removal of the first chapter.  Much of the first chapter serves to argue and support the idea of planning expository preaching; however, anyone taking Planning Your Preaching up to the counter and shelling out cash for it, does not likely need to hear these arguments.  On the other hand, as an assigned reading, the chapter does make for a nice opener for any student that may not agree with Rummage or planning a one-year preaching calendar.

              Planning Your Preaching is not only a helpful tool for preachers, novice and experienced alike, it is valuable for the soon-to-be preacher.  In fact, those just entering the pastorate would be well served to get started on the right foot.  Keeping a copy of Planning Your Preaching on a nearby shelf in the office is a great start.  Taking it with them on a planning retreat is even better!

     [1] Bell Shoals Baptist Church, “In Transition: From the Search Committee” PDF brochure attachment, [accessed October 18, 2009].

*I have no material connection to this book.  This post was, in its entirety or in part, originally written in seminary in partial fulfillment of a M.Div. It may have been redacted or modified for this website.