I have a confession to make: I love books about preaching. There’s something exhilarating about reading about God’ spoken word. Indeed, every preacher is called to “preach the gospel … not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Cor. 1:17). Saving Eutychus: How To Preach God’s Word and Keep People Awake is unique in its own right. It does not exhibit the strengths found in other preaching books, however. For instance, it does not stress the gravitas of the spoken word like Steven Lawson’s The Kind of Preaching God Blesses. It does not stress the importance of God-centeredness in preaching like John Piper’s work, The Supremacy of God in Preaching. It does not address preaching in a postmodern milieu like Albert Mohlers’s, He is Not Silent: Preaching in a Post-Modern World. And it doesn’t have the punch and power of Martyn Lloyd-Jones book, Preaching and Preachers. But this is not to suggest that Millar and Campbell have missed the mark. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Saving Eutychus is a refreshing reminder to pastors to preach sermons that aim for life transformation. Preaching must change lives and transform hearts. The thrust of their message is similar to the one I received in my D. Min program under Dr. Donald Sunukjian. My professor stresses over and over that the primary job of the sermon was not to “inform but to transform.”
Additionally, Millar and Cambell drive home the importance of keeping the people in the pews engaged. The book includes several practical suggestions for not only keeping people awake but keeping them engaged as well. And the bottom line: When people are not engaged, it is usually not their fault. Rather, it is the fault of the preacher.
Saving Eutychus echoes the main theme of Haddon Robinson’s, Biblical Preaching by presenting the importance of developing a sermonic big idea. Don Sunukjian drilled this into my brain over ten years ago as well. It is a lesson I’ve never forgotten.
Saving Eutychus includes a section on effective delivery that I found very helpful. The authors call it the “delivery sphere” where pastors are encouraged to vary their pace, volume and pitch. They rightly note, “Dull preaching shares a few characteristics. Monotone delivery – locked on a fixed pitch – is hypnotic.”
Finally, whenever Don Carson recommends a book, potential readers should listen carefully. Carson gets the last word here: “If I could, I would make this little book mandatory reading for seminarians everywhere, and then urge them to read it a couple more times during the course of their ministry. It avoids cutesy and manipulative suggestions, and makes its practical points while urging integrity, faithfulness, and imagination. Many books on preaching are published every year; this one is a ‘must.'”