Religion Magazine

Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle

By Richardl @richardlittleda

A review of ‘Transforming Preaching’ by David Heywood

The old joke runs that a woman needs a man “like a fish needs a bicycle”.  Those who have read many books of preaching may feel that they need yet another one as much as the fish needs its bicycle.  However, any book which ends on a section entitled ‘why preach’ and includes the following quote, has got my attention:

‘Research suggests that most regular churchgoers are well disposed towards the sermon and willing to listen. Our task, then, is to reward that attention with sermons that genuinely help’

This is a thorough, thoughtful and well-researched plea to approach the task of preaching with all the skill, learning and humility we can muster. It is only such preaching, Heywood argues, which will actually change anyone. Furthermore, if preaching is not about transformation, then he would contend that it is not worthy of the name.

The book begins by looking at the reasons for preaching, and then proceeds to a thoughtful analysis of the environment in which it takes place. The sermon itself is then scrutinized, starting with preparation, proceeding to structure, and concluding with delivery. Along the way there is lots of sound advice, there are numerous worked examples, and a dedicated reading list for each chapter. Every now and then there are flashes of provocative brilliance to keep every reader interested:

  • “learning to preach is rather like learning to drive”
  • “Christian commitment is a brand preference”
  • “A sermon is a spoken event. The sermon is not the script”

As the author of numerous books on preaching, I could see this book as competition.  As a tutor of preachers, I have to acknowledge that it will become one of my most highly recommended books for every student!


£12.99 – ISBN 9780281063413

£12.99 – ISBN 9780281063413


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