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God is in the House - the book that happened by accident

Inspire books reviewer Rev John Woods tells the story behind his book on preaching - God is in the House - which is published this week ...

Yes, the book is being published this week.

The day before publication felt a little bit like waiting for a baby to be born. If you asked me two years ago if I would like to write a book on preaching, I would have said “yes”. Yet it probably would not have been the book that is coming out this week!

The book that I thought I might write is a book on the trajectories of preaching, which would have taken a look at how different streams of preaching have flowed to us. That would have been a book that built on part of my doctoral thesis and would have been great fun. That might be a writing project that will yet emerge in the future.

The book that did get written was God is in the House, a fresh model for shaping the sermon.

The book came about from an idea that occurred to me almost by accident. I was teaching one of the sessions at the School of Preachers in Latvia on preaching from Mark’s Gospel. I had been trying to introduce fresh models for helping the students think about preaching.

On that weekend I did a session on building a sermon like building a house. We returned to the model for the next weekend together, and it began to develop in my mind.

Then during lockdown in 2020 my diary emptied, and I suddenly had some space to pause, breathe, think, and write. A lot of the thinking took place while I was doing my daily 10,000 steps.

On writing days, I would write from early morning till early afternoon, take a walk then return for another hour or two of writing. Often, I had some of my best ideas on those walks.

I have written before about the value of taking mini sabbaticals every day. They are the pauses that refresh us and give space to be creative and productive. These pauses also provide an opportunity to connect with creation, our own thoughts and other people.

One of the aspects of preaching dealt with in the book is the importance of starting well. It is vital for preachers to learn how to begin their sermons. Sometimes it is our exposure to the everyday in these daily pauses that gives us a way into a sermon.

There is a moment in the sermon when the congregation momentarily suspends its judgement, because this could be the best sermon we have ever heard - or the worst. Preachers need to seize that moment and use it to hook the congregation. These hooks might be speaking out the key text at the heart of our sermon, it might be posing a question, stating a fact or telling a story.

The key thing is to find a way to make a connection between the world of the Bible and the world of our hearers. More on this and many other topics can be found in the book. Read the book, recommend it to friends, and please pray for its usefulness.

God is in the House is available from the publisher and all the usual channels.

You can also read Canon J John's review of it here

John is speaking at the Dead Preachers Society, a conference on preaching being held at King's Church, Eastbourne on 5-6 July 2022. The aim of the conference is to learn from wise voices in the past, so that preachers can be wiser, deeper and more fruitful in the present, and more focused, nuanced and effective in the future. The speakers are John, Ben Virgo, David Hilborn, and Natalie Williams, who is being interviewed on preaching to working class congregations. 

Find out more and book for the event - there will also be a live stream of the sessions which you can also book for.

John Woods is a writer and Bible teacher based in West Sussex, and regularly travels out to Latvia, where he is Director of Training at the School of Preachers in Riga. John's blog is at www.schoolofpreachers.org

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