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Dennis Cahill: The Shape of Preaching


Dennis M. Cahill, The Shape of Preaching: Theory and Practice in Sermon Design (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2007), 175 pages.

Cahill builds this book on the foundation of master-preacher predecessors. He gleans from Haddon Robinson, Fred Craddock, David Buttrick, and other notable contemporary preaching coaches to fortify this how-to book on sermon preparation. Cahill makes wide application of appropriate styles and challenges the reader to use multiple sermon formats, as the biblical text might require or encourage. He systematically takes the reader through the processes of exegesis, sermon form, theological design, and literary concerns. The book is designed to be read either in part or in whole depending on the need or desire of the reader.

In his last chapter, Cahill places his theories into a graphic chart format, which will assist the visual learner conceptualize how the various ideas work in tandem with one another. The chart gives visual pegs on which to hang the ideas of the biblical text; it organizes the steps of preparation. He closes the book with practical information demonstrating how these sermon-crafting skills work. Additionally, four helpful appendixes are added to the end of the book which will serve as sermon design templates for one who is experimenting with an unfamiliar sermon format, or for one who desires to add to his or her preaching skills.

Dennis M. Cahill

For the accomplished preacher, this book will hone familiar skills, challenge neglected styles, and refresh professional proficiency. Likely, the accomplished preacher will have read the same authors that Cahill references and will be able to anticipate—or be reacquainted with—the contribution of each master-preacher. For the student of preaching, this book will introduce several sermon-format options to explore and sermon-crafting skills to acquire. If this book is utilized as a preaching class textbook, it will serve to whet the interest in the authors—and their ideas—that Cahill references. The book does not deal with the area of sermon delivery; it focuses solely on the process of preparation. It is worthy of a place in the pastor’s library.

Reviewed by John R. Miller


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Category: Fall 2007, Ministry

About the Author: John R. Miller is an ordained minister with Elim Fellowship of Lima, NY and serves as Pastor of Education with Living Word Temple of Restoration, Rochester, NY. He has a degree from Elim Bible Institute, a B.Div. (Trinity Theological Seminary), C.P.E. (University of Rochester), M.Div. (Northeastern Seminary), and Ph.D. (Regent University). He teaches at Regent University and Elim Bible Institute & College.

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