Review of “One Year to Better Preaching”

A weary pastor sifts through a mountain of advertisements. Keeping up with these ads is about as daunting as conquering all the fruit in your Fruit of the Month box. Apples rot and the pastor’s desk gets overwrought with the next best thing. On one particular Monday—it’s always a Monday—a particular advertisement appeals to this pastor. It’s in the area. It’s affordable. It seems like a breath of fresh air. He signs up.

A few months later he files into the conference hall with a thousand other pastors. Why are they here? Something within them knows that they need to improve in their preaching. Perhaps this conference will do the trick. And it will help. He’ll get a shot in the arm, he’ll be jazzed up a little, his preaching will improve for awhile, then on a particular Monday a few months later he’ll be looking through that stack of advertisements again.

Faithful pastors plod. While riding conference roller coaster can help, at the end of the day what makes a faithful pastor are lengthy seasons of plodding. It’s being dedicated to improvement week after week after week, more than it is attending a boat load of conferences. That is why I am thankful for Daniel Overdorf’s new resource One Year to Better Preaching.

Overdorf centers his book around eight broad categories of improvement for preachers: prayer and preaching, understanding listeners, illustration and application, the preaching event, bible interpretation, sermon construction, word crafting, and sermon evaluation. The idea is that the pastor would dedicate himself to one chapter per week. Each chapter comes with illustrations and helpful exercises for improvement. Overdorf also supplies a list of resources for further study.

This would be a great book to go through with other pastors and/or staff. There are very interesting exercises and things that you would not normally think of. As an example, in chapter 32 the preacher is encouraged to assign biographies to children. This exercise is meant to help the pastor with his ability to give illustrations and application. The book is packed with fun and helpful exercises that even the busiest of pastors could apply.

There is, in my opinion, one glaring weakness in the book. The best way to improve your preaching is to be in love with Jesus. Or to put that another way piety makes better preachers. I would have liked to have seen one of the eight categories be personal piety. That is the foundation of all the other components of homiletics. This book alone could make a skillful preacher but not necessarily a holy man.

There are sections about praying. But I do believe that many pastors can pray for the preaching event, pray for usefulness, etc. and never pray for their own souls. There needs to be a chapter on personal piety for this book to be more complete.

Having said that I do not think this weakness is enough to not heartily recommend this book. I plan on going through this book with my lead pastor. We plan on trying one of these exercises every week. It should be interesting doing this with another person. This is a great book and I’m confident that 52 weeks through this book would improve the preaching of any pastor.

Perhaps you should purchase this book and save your Monday’s for doing one of these exercises instead of looking for the next best thing in that mountain of ads.


  1. Doug Hibbard says

    I liked this one as well–saw that weakness, but chalked it up to the idea that the personal piety should be a focus no matter whether preaching or not.

    Good book, though. Hard to figure out how to give it to someone without being insulting :)