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The Write Stuff, Crafting Sermons That Capture and Convince Review (daveward)

By Edited Sep 21, 2016 0 1


Enjoyable, accesible, practical read.
Humorous, creative, and well thought through.
Will actually make sermons better.
Includes both theoretical reflection, practical insight, and application exercises.
Focuses on creativity, creative writing, and how they make more captivating sermons.


- Could focus less on writing and more on speaking and improvisational speech.
- Would be helped by bringing others into the preaching preparation more fully.

Full Review

The Write Stuff: Crafting Sermons That Capture and Convince. By Sondra B. Willobee. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009, 123 pages.

Sundays come fifty two times a year. Does inspiration visit anyone that often? Sondra Willobee explores this difficulty from the first pages of her book. "Sermons sag" like "working parents slumped over kitchen tables," she writes. The gravity of preaching every Sunday is both an emotional weight and a theological burden. It becomes clear very early on that Willobee is not interested in heavy bags of theoretical chaff in which a pastor might find a grain or two of wheat. She wants to untie heavy burdens and lift more than a finger to help burned out tired preachers whose sermons sag.
Beginning her theology of the Word as preached in Genesis 1, Willobee sees "let there be" as an invitation for the created to participation in creativity. Her salve for the ailment of boring sermons is more than a mantra of "be more creative." Pastors recognize this quickly for the try-harder slogan that it is. Instead, she offers a book that "condenses material on the creative-writing shelf for Christian pastors." In other words, she has done the sifting for us, and proposes every page as bread for hungry practitioners. At only 123 pages including notes, she has kept it brief, accessible, and written in a humorous style.
Underneath the hood of The Write Stuff a certain engine is at work. Willobee's work received its forward from the prolific Tom Long, cites the venerable Fred Craddock first and second, moves through sources on poetics to the ever-popular Eugene Lowry, and quotes the enigmatic Barbara Brown Taylor as a key inspiration numerous times. In other words, the driving theoretical force is a certain brand of the New Homiletic with its eventful view of language, phenomenologically disclosive view of epistemology, and its high view of human agency in the task of preaching. However, taking its cue from Taylor, it focuses on writing as the expressive mode, and creative writing as the cognate discipline. Recent homiletical reflections more fully in conversation with themes such as hermeneutical suspicion, rupturing of totalities, and ideology critique only make cameo appearances. Further, the orality of preaching is only the final stage in her process.
Nevertheless, what The Write Stuff intends to do and does, it does very well. Clearly written by a pastor who teaches preaching, this book delivers. It is a highly practical book for preachers who want to write and preach more creative sermons. Scattered through every chapter are sections titled "Try This." Each of these is an exercise for the preacher to set down the book and do. From breathing prayer to cluster free writing sessions each of these exercises to actually do in order to further grasp the concepts and apply themselves to better preaching in the future. If the preacher takes the time, she will benefit.

In Closing

Buy this book. Read it. Your preaching will benefit from it, and you won't be drug down by the burden of reading it. You might even laugh out loud.


Aug 27, 2009 11:32pm
Great review! Thanks for sharing it with us...
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