Score: 91/100 (9.1 out of 10)
This small book packs a HUGE punch [of grace and mercy] for all those interested in preaching and public speaking!
You heard that last bit right, “Simple Preaching Prep” is not just applicable to preachers and ministers, but can actually be very useful for anyone who regularly gives presentations or pitches. Last year, we read a book called “Presentation Zen” which was a $40 book that was 3-4 times longer than this. The information in that book wasn't that much more insightful than this little booklet by Mark Messmore, the lead pastor of Mt. Olivet Christian Church in Williamstown, Kentucky. This book is dense and surprisingly entertaining! You forget you're reading a book about doing something as terrifying and yet mundane as preaching. Messmore is all too aware that preaching can be terrifying, immediately opening up with a very humorous line about the thought-process a nervous preacher can go through.
Messmore comes across as a very genuine, intelligent, and humorous person whose heart is in the right place. He frequently reminds the reader to remember that the purpose of preaching isn't to be an entertainer but to get God's word across clearly and effectively. Still, Messmore recognizes the importance of not being dull and boring. He knows that you want your listeners to keep coming back for more to hear more about God. This isn't the kind of book that would be read in a drawl or monotone way like some law or religious books would be read. Instead, Messmore seems to have a lot of pep in the way he presents and discusses information. It is really difficult to accurately explain how he makes it happen, but he makes it happen.
For example, there's a time when we're invited to look at constructing a sermon around a particular verse about Zacchaeus the tax collector from Luke 19:5. We're prompted to look at this verse again and again (which you'd think would be boring), but to look at it from different points of view and to build questions around it. Messmore calls these “clarifying questions.” They're not too dissimilar from the types of things you would ask about a topic or text using the Socratic method.
He also encourages the speaker to always consider the audience. Different audiences have different biases, beliefs, and values. Paul of Tarsus knew this as well as anyone. That's what made him such a masterful communicator.
Now, I know what you're thinking: isn't a lot of this Communication 101? Well, yes, but it's also Communication 150 and 201. You're getting a lot of chew from each bite of this text. However, it's not overly complicated or drawn out. You're not going to be overwhelmed or choke on it.
Messmore proves to be a very good teacher and communicator. The aforementioned Paul the Apostle would be proud. You're even provided with ways you can put what you learned into practice after each section as well as sources and references throughout the book if you'd like to learn more.
The book is also very well-structured and organized. The writing very good. The T-charts are very helpful and well-crafted. Even the diagrams work nicely. It's difficult to find flaws with this texts other than to just be nitpicky. We could say that we naturally have a bias against short books that more easily nab a larger readership and higher ratings despite generally being easier to write. However, this usually only bothers us when a short book is a obviously a low-effort affair, which this certainly is not. We could say that this book isn't exhaustive in the way that many of the other non-fiction books in the competition are (like “The 21st Century Man” by Dr. Judson Brandeis and “Wild Colts Make the Best Horses” by Mary Rae Mauch). However, is that really fair? Do you really want to give a novice preacher an encyclopedia of preaching? Of course not. Messmore is quick to inform us that just because he omits telling us about something doesn't mean that it's not important, it's just outside the focused scope of this book. And the book is—effectively—more focused because of this.
We highly recommend “Simple Preaching Prep” to those interested in preaching. It's an easy and insightful read. It might surprise you too!
Get it below!