Preaching, as most should know, is not just providing a lecture (despite the many preachers that do this week in and week out) but involves taking the text preached and applying it to the lives of the hearers: essentially, persuading them to live differently in light of the sermon. While this should see a no-brainer, considering the failure of many to do this, Persuasive Preaching, by R. Larry Overstreet, is a helpful, academic tome for pastors seeking to be better at persuading people to change.
The bulk of Overstreet’s book focuses on the biblical support for persuasion. Some, perhaps concerned about manipulating people, may never actually call people to live or think differently. Therefore, it’s important for Overstreet to develop the overwhelming support for persuading people in our sermons. It is clear from his presentation, that the Bible calls those who “preach” the Word of God to people, need to call them to live or think differently in light of the Scripture preached. It is insufficient to simply teach them, you must call them to live differently.
He then shows how those more persuasive messages might look, which is probably the strongest part of the book. Here Overstreet is helpful at laying down messages that motivate, solve problems, demonstrate cause and effect, and refutation. This is helpful for pastors to see the varied ways they may approach their preaching to help bring people to real biblical change.
Finally, Overstreet deals with issues of the problem of manipulation, how the Holy Spirit relates to preaching, and the invitation. And it is over the invitation this writer disagrees a bit. Overstreet doesn’t deal at all with the problems of the invitation system (see Iain Murray’s excellent work on the invitation system), but I think Overstreet is not wrong to suggest people make a definitive move to change following a message, but the “coming forward” of most invitations becomes tools to manipulate rather than make actual biblical change. Other than Overstreets failure to deal with those with whom would disagree with him, the application of his book in these chapters is helpful.
The appendices are rather technical, but the sample sermons is helpful to see what this would look like in real life.
Overall, Overstreet’s book is helpful in converting people to the idea that preaching is more than lecturing. It should be calling people to biblical change. While my caveat over invitations stands, Overstreet is a helpful addition to the preacher’s library who wants to improve, overall, how the Holy Spirit uses their preaching to bring about change in their hearers.