Saving Eutychus by Gary Millar and Phil Campbell

When a friend first told me about this "great book about preaching" he had just read, I was in a low place. I had recently preached a sermon badly and took a bit of a beating for it.  I don't preach for our entire congregation but once every 6 weeks--once per month if I'm lucky--and now the guy I'm hoping to equip to teach and preach hands me a book about preaching? Ka-Blam! Road salt in an open wound. But I heard him out and borrowed the book (because I was not about to buy a copy that day).

The book is called, Saving Eutychus: How to preach God's word and keep people awake by Gary Miller and Phil Campbell.  It takes its name from that poor kid, Eutychus, who fell asleep during one of the apostle Paul's especially lengthy late-night sermons.  The trouble however, is that Eutychus was sitting in the window on the third story. He fell to his demise and Paul, by the power of God, raised Eutychus from death. (Acts 20:7-12)

In their book, Millar and Campbell make a strong case for good, expository preaching that's heard because the hearers are not lulled to sleep by the preacher.  In addition to their argument, they provide many practical tools for the hopeful preacher.  It's a small book that can easily be read in a very short period and applied the following Sunday. That being said, it is only a small book and not a substitute for a good homiletics course and subsequent labs and practical work.  It's a good introduction or refresher, but in a sea of preaching 'how-tos' and text books, this little book is just about right. 

As should any book on preaching the Bible, Millar and Campbell start with rightly dealing with God's Word. They argue for expository preaching in addition to capturing what God has to say from his Word rather than making it about what the preacher has to say. Examples are provided and then they move on to delivery. The interesting advantage about this book however, is that they come back to the lessons presented at the start as they walk through the process of building a sermon, and they provide some practical examples via the appendix. 

In delivery, Millar and Campbell deal with plotting through pitch, tone, and tempo, all depending upon the preacher's agility, that is, the ability to adjust these areas quickly. This is an extremely helpful reminder for the seminary graduate who spends a great deal of time with the text but is weak in the area of presentation.

One might argue against aspects of this book because they look like performance or showmanship; however, the implication is that the preacher should handle God's Word well and that doesn't end with the exegetical and hermeneutical work.  Good, solid exegesis and hermeneutics build a firm foundation, but the sermon by its very nature needs a little more, especially early on Sunday mornings!  Preaching is more than teaching, it's communication and Millar and Campbell try to help the preacher be a better communicator.

After reading Saving Eutychus, I've been listening to a great deal more sermons from a wide variety of preachers.  I've been replaying some of my own sermons. Thinking even more about how different preachers deal with a text and then how some of the delivery ideas are applied, I'm finding it helpful for my own preaching.  Listening to recent sermons and chatting with trusted brothers and sisters in Christ, I'm getting a better feel for my preaching strengths and weaknesses. (You can listen to a sample of my preaching on The Kingdom or on Revelation 22.) I'm also thinking a little differently about delivery and I'm hoping it will help as I of prepare future sermons.  (Hopefully it's more fruitful for God's Kingdom and nobody falls out a window!)

I'm thankful that my friend told me about this book.  If you teach or preach, or if you have a desire to preach or teach, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Saving Eutychus: How to preaching God's word and keep people awake.  (And if you know someone who needs to read the book, by all means share, but remember to be sensitive.)

* I have no connection to this book, material or otherwise.