Smith, Steven W. Recapturing the Voice of God: Shaping Sermons Like Scripture. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2015. 230 pp. $24.99.
Do you want better sermons? For preachers and congregants alike, the answer is obvious. So how does a preacher go about preaching better sermons? Steven W. Smith in Recapturing the Voice of God suggests that preachers must not only understand the meaning of a text, but also “identify the voice of God in the Word of God” (7). Smith argues preachers must re-preach God’s Word with God’s voice, namely the original pitch, rate and volume of a particular passage. Sermons that follow a formula at the neglect of the genre do a disservice to God’s Word. Thus, to ignore the genre of Scripture is to lose God’s voice in a sermon.
Smith has one plea for preachers: “let’s consider how the genre of each text helps us to be more faithful to that Word” (15). The end goal is not more creative sermons, but rather the faithful re-presenting of God’s Word. “Scripture shape,” Smith writes, “dictates sermon form” (34). Thus the preacher allows the form of the text to dictate the homiletical form for his sermon. Thus, preachers “allow the structure of the text to dictate the structure of the sermon” (35).
In chapters 1-3, Smith makes his case for text-driven, genre-aware preaching. Chapters 4-12 address how to recapture God’s voice in the various genres (e.g. Old Testament narrative, the Law, Gospels/Acts, Psalms, Epistles, etc). These chapters provide insight into how to handle and understand a particular genre, and reveal preaching pitfalls inherent in a particular genre of Scripture. Concluding each chapter is a sample sermon outline and questions for reflection.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
If your preaching is stuck in a rut, your sermons sound the same week to week, or your listeners are taxed by three points and a story, then this book is for you. Smith encourages the preacher to better understand and handle the biblical text in order to free the preacher to preach with the diverse vocal range of God.
Most preachers instinctively know that preaching the Song of Solomon the same way they would preach Romans would be odd, and perhaps flat out wrong. Smith aims to provide practical help for the preacher to make sense of the genres of Scripture through the lens of a preacher. This book does not address how to craft sermon illustrations or how to interpret Scripture. What it does do is hugely helpful. It reveals the inherent nuances of each genre in order to help the preacher work through the text with an awareness of how this genre fits within the overall message of the gospel and how God intends this particular genre to speak to his people today.
Smith aims to cultivate faithful preachers that take the text seriously. Preachers must sit under the Word of God and allow it to dictate our message and how we deliver that message. Smith writes, “Preaching sermons that honor the genre is the choice to die and let the genre of the text live. It is an extension of a high view of Scripture” (34). Thus, for preachers seeking to preach the Bible to build up God’s people in the way that God intended, Recapturing the Voice of God is a welcomed resource to make sure we can confidently proclaim “thus saith the Lord” in every sermon.
Essential — Recommended — Helpful — Pass It By
Recapturing the Voice of God: Shaping Sermons Like Scripture is a resource to help preachers faithfully re-preach God’s Word by allowing the genre of the passage to inform the sermon.