John R.W. Stott. Between Two Worlds: The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century.
Grand Rapids: W.M. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982. 351 Pg. $16.99.
ISBN 0-8028-35642-2. Reviewed by Christopher L. Sanchez, Seminary Student.
John Stott’s book Between Two Worlds: The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century is far more than a simple book detailing the tasks associated with preaching the sermon. Stott opens with the simple statement “preaching is indispensable to Christianity” (p. 15). From there he goes on to detail the history of preaching from Jesus’ earthly ministry into the twentieth century. Stott readily admits his recounting of this history is both incomplete and selective though it does ably serve to demonstrate the breadth of preaching throughout Christian history (p. 46-47).
Stott next turns his attention to the contemporary objections to preaching at the time of his writing. Stott identifies those three main objections as the anti-authority mood, the cybernetics revolution or changing communications, and the church’s loss of confidence in the Gospel. As expected, each objection is thoroughly refuted. From here Stott discusses the theological foundations for preaching and preaching as bridge-building to those who would hear the message being proclaimed.
In chapter five Stott discusses the need to study Scripture and lays the groundwork for the final three chapters which focus on the preparation and delivery of the sermon itself. Interestingly Stott devotes an entire chapter to sincerity and earnestness in delivery. He rightly mentions it is not enough to be sincere but one must also demonstrate earnestness in delivery which defines as feeling what we as preachers say in our sermons (p. 273). Stott concludes with a discussion of the need for courageous yet humble preachers in our pulpits. This point is as true today as it was thirty years ago when Stott penned this seminal work.
Throughout Stott’s eight chapters, he uses effective illustrations to make his points in a clear and memorable way. Another key strength of Stott’s book is the well stated need for verbally proclaiming God’s word. A critical review also requires an attempt to identify weaknesses in the work being reviewed. If something must be identified, the guidance concerning the actual preparation of the sermon could have been expanded. Without a doubt Stott’s many, many years in ministry qualify him to offer guidance in this area. Regrettably, Stott seems to have limited his remarks in this area.
Without a doubt, this volume should be on the bookshelf of every seminarian. Though some of the material seems dated such as the discussion about addiction to television found in chapter two, the book still offers a relevant perspective of the preaching ministry of the church. Seminarians and laity alike will find benefit in the pages of Stott’s fine work.