Both Gary Millar and Phil Campbell are stationed at Queensland Theological College in Brisbane, Australia. Millar is a Northern Irish transplant, and Campbell could be a native for all I know. 1 Millar is the principal of the college and Campbell lectures on preaching. Together, they offer readers Saving Eutychus: How to Preach God’s Word and Keep People Awake. Interested readers can listen to Millar practice what he preaches since he was one of the plenary speakers at this year’s Gospel Coalition National Conference 2
Like the other books from Matthias Media I’ve had the pleasure of reading 3 this one is relatively short, written with extreme clarity, and intensely practical. Having already taken two preaching labs in seminary, I am familiar with many of the standard introductions and the overall flow of these kinds of books. However, Saving Eutychus has the virtue of being written in light of those other books and cuts more to the chase than is usual.
The book is comprised of 8 chapters, semi-alternately written by Millar and Campbell. 4 After the necessary introductory matters, the first chapter proper introduces the story of poor Eutychus, the man Paul literally bored to death with his preaching. 5 Helpfully, in this chapter, it is pointed out that it is not about you, and that preparing every sermon starts with bathing the process in prayer. Not just lest there be Eutychuses 6 in your pews, but so that you are not trying to preach captivating sermons in your own power.
This sets the context for all of the advice that follows. First, chapter 2 introduces the target every sermon should have: the heart. Then, chapter 3 probes why sermons are often deadly, dull, and/or boring, as well as what you can do about it. 7 In chapter 4, we are introduced to the concept of “the big idea” that every sermon should have. If you’ve taken a preaching class, this is old hat, but it is worth repeating since so few sermons have a single big idea that listeners could easily repeat after the sermon. Then chapter 5 explores why preaching the gospel is so hard, especially when it comes to the Old Testament. Here we get a hermeneutics 101 on preaching Christ and are concisely taught how to build authentic biblical-theological bridges from the Old Testament. This chapter alone is probably worth the price of the book.
Chapter 6 takes a turn into matters related to delivery. Since we all can’t and shouldn’t be like Jonathan Edwards and read our sermons in monotone from the pulpit or music stand, pastors would do well to heed and incorporate the advice here for how the content of the sermon is delivered to the audience. The following chapter gets into an important but also oft neglected matter. I am speaking of course of critique, and here readers are introduced to both the importance of friendly constructive criticism and how to go about securing it. Finally, in chapter 8, Campbell walks readers through the current sermon he was preparing at the time of writing and then lets us read the manuscript. Then, Millar offers a critique using the form that they employ in their preaching groups. They then switch roles, and after an appendix of resources, the book comes to a switch end.
While there are many books out there on preaching, I can’t think of one right off that has so much practical advice packed in under 200 pages. Here you have a book written by two guys who love preaching and want to see it done well, and together they’ve authored a brief manual to guide young and old preachers alike into preaching faithful sermons that can captivate their audiences. I would highly recommend this book to you if you are ever regularly preaching or teaching the Bible. Though I don’t preach regularly, I do teach often and much of what the authors share here could be applied to classroom lectures to make them less lecturely. Even you’ve had preaching classes in the past, this book will be a great refresher and because of its concise nature, it is easier to consult. Particularly valuable too is the feedback form (employed in the critiques) that I would strongly suggest every pastor allow their elders to make use of. In the end, this is a top-notch on book on preaching the gospel well from the whole of Scripture and I hope it gets a wide readership!
And just to give you more incentive to pick this up, here’s a clever video trailer for the book:
- Authors: Gary Millar and Phil Campbell
- Title: Saving Eutychus: How to Preach God’s Word and Keep People Awake
- Publisher: Matthias Media (January 1, 2013)
- Paperback: 176pgs
- Reading Level: General Reader
- Audience Appeal: Anyone who preaches or teaches the Bible regularly and wants to improve their “captivation” factor
- Gratis Review Copy: Yes (courtesy of Matthias Media and CrossFocused Reviews)
- The blurbs on the back of the book do not specify Phil’s point of origin like they do for Gary. After reading the book though, (I write the intro blurbs first) I can confirm that Phil is indeed an Aussie ↩
- Where they had copious amounts of this book, many of which I placed on tables in throughout the bookstore in exchange for a free ticket to the conference ↩
- The Archer and The Arrow, The Trellis and The Vine, and Growth Groups ↩
- You can tell which chapter was written by whom as there is a pencil sketch silhouette of each other’s headshot on the respective title page of the chapters they wrote. I found this helpful and aesthetically pleasing. ↩
- Ok, so not really, but he did fall asleep around midnight after Paul had been preaching for hours and then subsequently plummeted to his death. Paul felt sorry for him and so raised him from the dead, only to keep preaching the rest of the night. The people, not surprisingly, were “not a little comforted.” (Acts 20:12) ↩
- Eutychusi? ↩
- And as a kind of preview, you can read that (edited) chapter for yourself here: Deadly, Dull and Boring ↩