Professor and author Cornelius Plantinga believes that a good preacher needs to be a good reader. While the preacher must be diligent to be absorbed, first and foremost, in the Bible, a broader reading plan is essential. This is the case because the challenge in front of the preacher to stand before a mixed audience weekly and speak on the mightiest of topics is immense (p. xi). Preachers must accurately expound the meaning of a biblical text but shape it in such a way as to engage a congregation (p. 44). No one else has such a daunting task (p. 65), and so great wisdom is needed (p. 70). From where does such wisdom come (the subject of the final three chapters)? Largely from broad and careful reading of all kinds of literature. Plantinga favors good novels, short stories, poems, and even children’s works (pp. 6, 10, 57-59, 77). This is because “great writers know the road to the human heart and, once at their destination, know how to move our hearts” (p. 6). As the preacher reads such material, he begins to understand how he can do the same thing in preaching.
The stated purpose of the book is “to present the advantages to the preacher of a program of general reading. Good reading generates delight, and the preacher should enjoy it without guilt. Delight is a part of God’s shalom and the preacher who enters the world of delight goes with God” (p. x). The author recommends indexing and storing quotes, illustrations, and insights in a good retrieval system. He uses Pro-Cite (pp. 19, 131). Plantanga’s enthusiasm for reading is contagious and along the way he offers a number of suggestions worth considering (and storing). The reader might even end up reading a Russian novel or two, or maybe even a poem. The author brings up a number of issues that he does not address well, such as whether the preacher is to insert the gospel in every sermon, even if it is not in the text (p. 1). And he supports the idea of women as preachers and so alternates by chapter his use of masculine and feminine pronouns for preachers (p. xiv). I found this beyond annoying. But overall, the book is worth a read by preachers who need to develop a wider reading program that will aid them in reaching the hearts of their audiences.
by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2013), 133 pp. + xiv, paper $14.99
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Southern View Chapel