Book Review: Preaching By Ear

It’s Sunday morning. You’ve arrived at worship service. You look through the church bulletin and notice something different. There is no sermon outline. Frankly, in such a situation, many of us would be at a loss. We are used to living in the literary context of speaking. How can we even keep track of where the sermon is going without the outline?! Yet, believers in the past and believers in other countries seem to hear the Word of God preached and apply it to their lives without ever having an outline in hand while the pastor is preaching. This is because they learn through “oral orientation” (McClellan 4). Actually, this seems to be the method through which people in Bible times learned. Because of that, Dave McClellan has put together the book Preaching By Ear.

Preaching By Ear begins by preparing the pastor to understand what an orally driven sermon means and then runs through figures in history like Augustine and Quntilian to show the reader how they had approached communication. Christians and pagans alike, there was a call for an oral approach. The latter half of the book presses in on how God’s Word is partial to the Spoken Word and helps the preacher in the endeavor to give orally driven sermons and to internalize the Word of God before even getting to the sermon event.McClellan PBE

McClellan’s book, if nothing else, is a challenging read for me as an aspiring pastor. This is not because the content is hard to understand. It is because the concept it foreign to a culture that takes such a different approach. Having the technology we do, we seem more literary driven than orally driven. It comes through even in the form of communication. While there are times McClellan is not completely convincing in arguing for the orally based model of preaching, I cannot help but appreciate the focus on internalizing our convictions (McClellan 5) and the very Word of God itself (chapter 8) so that we speak authentically. There is no separation of the speech and the speaker so we should be honest and open in sharing our lives in our preaching (McClellan 41). The reminder by Augustine on the priority of prayer is essential (McClellan 18-19). The great takeaway from this book, however, comes when McClellan says the sermon should not be our first concern. We need to first be lovers of God and, second, lovers of people. It is only after that we gain the heart behind and for preaching the sermon.

All these words of wisdom point to the fact that Dave McClellan’s Preaching By Ear is a challenging, yet fruitful read for pastors across the spectrum. Any pastor who wants to grow in his preaching should pick up this book. You may not agree with McClellan on every claim but you will be stretched. You will, indeed, grow!

I received this book for free from Weaver Book Company via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

Published by Theron St. John

Steward of the Lord Jesus Christ

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