Concise Encyclopedia of Preaching

By William H. Willimon and Richard Lischer, eds.
Louisville, KY : Westminster John Knox (1995). xxi + 518 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Dennis Swanson
7.1 (Spring 1996) : 144-145

In continuing their tradition of excellent reference works, the publishers have produced an important work on homiletics and preaching. The editors provide articles ranging in subjects from the "theological reflection on the meaning of authority in the pulpit to the twinge of anxiety experienced by every preacher who stands to speak" (vii).

The articles extend in size from a few paragraphs to 27 pages for the entry on "The History of Preaching." For many entries on individual preachers, the editors have included a "representative" sermon excerpt to illustrate their messages. This is an admirable goal and an interesting feature, but the excerpts are generally too short and have insufficient background information to help in evaluating the sermonic style of each preacher. Each entry concludes with the author's name and a short bibliography.

Article subjects are wide-ranging, the ones on liturgy, rhetoric, history, and homiletics being the work's strength. Those unfamiliar with preaching traditions from liturgical and liberal backgrounds will derive great benefit from this volume. Articles dealing with communication and homiletic theory also provide much insight. Though the book contains some articles about Puritan preachers and those of the Calvinistic tradition, its discussion of preaching from Reformed tradition is particularly weak. The absence of references to some standard evangelical works on preaching is noticeable, particularly D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones' Preaching and Preachers, Warren Wiersbe's Preaching and Teaching with Imagination, the Westminster Seminary faculty's The Preacher and Preaching, and The Master's Seminary faculty's Rediscovering Expository Preaching.

These minor criticisms aside, the volume will benefit the reader and will become a standard reference work in the area of homiletics.