Lenny Luchetti teaches preaching at Indiana Wesleyan University and Wesley Seminary, both in Marian, Indiana. He has written a book I recommend to every young preacher just beginning a life of ministry: “Preaching Essentials: A Practical Guide” (Wesleyan Publishing House, 2012).
There are bigger books, more profound books, and books in more dialogue with the wide range of literature related to preaching; but none that I know serve better at helping a person get started.
There are things here you won’t find in many, more sophistocated books. First, there is encouragement to secure a preaching coach. This practical, powerful advice coheres nicely with the priorities here at the Academy of Preachers. We require everyone who preaches at our festivals to be accompanied by a preaching coach or mentor. Many young preachers do not have such a person in their life, and our rule pushes them to find a coach. Luchetti recommends meeting with your coach 4-6 times a year and spend at least part of those meetings actually watching video recordings of your sermon. This is sound advice.
Second, there is attention to the use of imagination in preaching. All young preachers need practical help in using imagination in preaching. To this end he recommends the use of a prevailing metaphor, “the illustrative story or image that is used at various places throughout the sermon to accentuate the sermon’s focus.” This, again, is excellent advice.
Coupled with the prevailing metaphor is the value of what Luchetti call the “mantra.” He writes, “At some point in my preaching journey, I was exposed to preachers who artfully craft a mantra that is repeated strategically, not redundantly, throughout the sermon. The use of the mantra can, like the prevailing metaphor, bring focus and power to the sermon.”
Luchetti introduces to me (and perhaps to you) a technique he calls “mind mapping.” It is a way of seeing, organizing, and remembering all that a preacher wants to say. Draw a simple tree on a page of paper; let the trunk represent the sermon focus or main idea of the sermon. The thick branches that grow out from the trunk are the primary points or ideas you have developed to present your main idea; five to seven of these are enough, he writes. The smaller branches or twigs feature words that help you recall what you want to say about that branch. “When you develop a mind map like this one, your ten-page, four-thousand-word sermon becomes a one-page picture consisting of 20-30 words.” This visualization process (almost like a word cloud) encourages independence from a written text and development of the skill of speaking without notes. And this is good!
Last of my notes from reading this book is his direction on how to solicit and receive valuable feedback from your audience or congregation. This is an area of growing interest among homileticians; Ron Allen at Christian Theological Seminary has directed a decades-long project on the practice of listening to the listeners; and our own Lori Carrell at the Univerity of Wisconsin at Oshkosh is awaiting delivery of her new book, “Preaching That Matters”, which gives attention to the impact of the sermon. Luchetti prints in his book a sample congregational survey form and gives practical advice on both the congregational feedback form and the sermon focus group.
We preachers need all the help we can get; our task has become more difficult while the social and spiritual need for the gospel has intensified. We will have this book for sale in Atlanta and perhaps we can persuade Dr. Luchetti to offer a preaching workshop when the National Festival comes to his home turf in 2014 (Indianapolis).