Pastors Read This Book! Preaching That Moves People by Yancey Arrington

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I know, another preaching book. Why should I read this one? First, I would say that pastors should always be studying and reevaluating their preaching, but also this book is different. While the majority of preaching books are focused on learning how to obtain the right material from passages in sermon preparation, Yancey Arrington’s latest book, Preaching that Moves People: How to Get Down the Mountain of Your Messages with Maximum Impact, effectively builds on that foundation by helping the preacher deliver that message to his congregation with power and intrigue. 

Have you ever been preaching and felt your people drift away as you spoke? Almost as if you’re walking toward them and they just keep getting further away from you as you speed ahead in your notes to grab their attention. Maybe they begin to start drawing on their bulletin cover, or worse still, perhaps they pull out their phones, while you are getting to your most crucial point in the sermon. Where did you lose them? After all, the Word gripped you so tightly as you studied this week, how could it not grip them? Why is this not moving them? As a pastor, I have been there more times then I would care to admit. 

I’ve read nearly all the preaching books out there and while there might be a chapter on sermon delivery, that’s not the main concern for the vast majority of these resources. Yet, that remains a major issue for many pastors today, including myself. That is why I was so excited to read this book after getting a recommendation from a friend. Arrington has written a treasure trove of helpful advice that only comes from years of experience in delivering God’s Word to God’s people. 

Now, I know what you’re thinking, isn’t it the Holy Spirit’s responsibility to move the people? Yes, but as Arrington writes, “Preaching is not an either/or proposition. It is both. God, through his grace, effects the divine work of his Spirit on the hearts of listeners through the human work of preaching. In the preaching equation, the Lord has determined that the preacher is just as essential as the God he proclaims.” (22) 

Don’t make the wrong assumption from the title. Arrington is not focused on manipulating people, but on helping preachers reach them through the Gospel. That is a huge difference, as he writes, “Preaching that moves people has people-centered delivery with gospel-centered content, but preaching that manipulates people has people-centered delivery with people-centered content.” (39)

Employing the apt metaphor of skiing down a mountain,  Arrington explains that preaching is like guiding a group of friends down the slopes. This has to be done with careful attention on the best way to get down the mountain for the entire group. Losing a friend on the slopes would not be advantageous, nor would be losing listeners during the sermon. Arrington writes, “Each preacher must remember that the sermon is ultimately for the listener, not the deliverer.” (79) This certainly does not change the truth of the passage being preached, but it does change how one proclaims that truth to the audience. 

The majority of this book revolves around Arrington’s three-faceted approach to sermon delivery. He explains this approach by using three simple phrases Aim for tension, Build for speed, and Chart for bandwidth. Those words might not mean that much to you now, but after reading Preaching that Moves People each one of these purposeful phrases holds substantial value to me as I approach delivering sermons to those God has entrusted to me. 

One of the most beneficial aspects of this resource is found when Arrington writes on finding your preaching voice. We all know that every preacher is different, yet often preachers, especially young preachers, will attempt to shape themselves into others. They will start using hand gestures like Piper or phrases like MacArthur. While this may be helpful in some ways, it can also be extremely dangerous as it can border on idolatry.  This can lead to fruitless imitation or as Arrington describes“Models will help you in the pulpit, while idols will crush you there.” (146)

Overall, Preaching that Moves People is one of the most practical resources that I have found in ministry. It’s like having a one-on-one with a successful veteran preacher on how to communicate what you passionately spent all week learning in your study. This book helps in solving the problem that Keller describes as why “an awful lot of our expository preaching isn’t very life changing.” (27) Let me say this as strongly as I can, I think every preacher should read this book. Your congregation will thank you. 

- Dean