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Giving Blood: A Fresh Paradigm for Preaching Hardcover – March 25, 2014
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'For those of us who bemoan the lack of appreciation of current communication theory in homiletics, this is the book. Finally, something that moves beyond a linear understanding to a broader perspective incorporating the digital and image. 5 stars!' -- Dale Keller, Professor of Corporate Communication, Taylor University
'Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said: “The time when people could be told everything by means of words, whether theological or pious, is over.' In this, his latest work, Dr. Leonard Sweet challenges today's 'heralds of hope' to communicate old truths in new ways. His passion for Christ and his Church can be found on every page of this book. This is a must read!' -- Donald Hilliard Jr., Lead Pastor, Cathedral International and Assistant Associate Professor, Drew University
'In Giving Blood, arguably his most magisterial work, Leonard Sweet keeps one hand on the pulse of the culture, one hand on the heart of ministry, and two eyes on the Great Physician. Drawing from a typically eclectic cavalcade of sources, Sweet has pieced together a master class in twenty-first century homiletics. Along with a winning appeal to preaching that is truly participative, readers will find here many skill-building interactivities and a wealth of sheer artistry that delights and inspires. Any seasoned or would-be homiletician who does not come across something in this book to stir his or her blood had better check their pulse.' -- Alan Rathe, author of (the forthcoming) Evangelicals, Worship, and Participation: Turn-of-the-Millennium Reading
'Len Sweet provides a fresh and much needed perspective of preaching that goes far beyond the reductionist approaches dominating homiletics today. He helps preachers see and communicate scriptural truths in far more holistic, understandable, memorable, and moving ways. The New Testament shows us that Jesus’ own approach to preaching was filled with narrative and metaphor. Sweet taps into long-forgotten, yet indispensable, communication tools and provides a comprehensive manual that is valuable for those starting out in ministry as well as experienced preachers who see the need for a fresh approach to reach today’s listeners.' -- Alan Ehler, Dean, College of Christian Ministry and Religion, Southeastern University, Lakeland, Florida
'Simply put, Giving Blood is the primer for the art of semiotic preaching and is destined to become a true preaching paradigm shifter.' -- James Merritt, Lead Pastor at Cross Pointe Church
'Len Sweet has done it again! Giving Blood offers a much-needed transfusion both for those in the pulpit and those in the pew. Len is the Duke Ellington of homileticians: his intricately woven metaphors inspire us away from preaching models that are incompatible with culture and toward the relational, improvisational ones we find Jesus embodying on the pages of the gospels. This kind of preaching offers lifeblood to preachers and their churches. You'll want to read this book -- it's good to the last drop!' -- Dr. Jay Richard Akkerman, Professor of Preaching and Pastoral Theology, Northwest Nazarene University, Nampa, Idaho
'Bold and accessible, Giving Blood will revitalize pastors and communities suffering the deadly effects of stale preaching and pump new life into the twenty-first century church. Refreshing!' -- Wendy J. Deichmann, PhD, President, United Theological Seminary
'Leonard Sweet is an atypical theologian and one of the most insightful spiritual thinkers of the 21st century. In this book he has accurately diagnosed the spiritual condition of our contemporary culture and found it in need of life – the life that is in the blood. He has detected the inability of spiritual physicians to dispense the very life-blood needed by their patients, those who fill the pews and the corridors of our culture. Dying men and women come to the emergency room of the church in need of trauma specialists. Sweet invites us to go with him on rounds as we hone our skills in dispensing life.' -- Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer, Senior Pastor/Teacher, Faithful Central Bible Church, Los Angeles
'Label this book 'O Negative'. It is rare and urgently needed. Good for all types.' -- Heather Murray Elkins, Professor of Worship, Preaching, and the Arts, Drew University
About the Author
Leonard Sweet is an author of many books, professor (Drew University, George Fox University, Tabor College), creator of preachthestory.com, and a popular speaker throughout North America and the world. His “Napkin Scribbles” podcasts are available on leonardsweet.com
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*Giving Blood* was written to offer a fresh transfusion of life to those who have been called to write and deliver sermons. Leonard
Sweet, who is one of the most creative and engaging preachers you will ever hear, has written over 1500 sermons, and understands the process, pain and passion of this vocation.He also understands that it is time to equip today's preachers with skills to speak to the Google world. Drawing on his background in semiotics and incorporating the use of narraphor ( narrative metaphor), Dr. Sweet expertly
and invitingly encourages preachers to review, rethink and and renew their approach to preaching.
A word about the organization of the book. Dr Sweet uses the metaphor of blood throughout the framework of his book.
The title, the sections, the chapters and the "labs" are all identified with names that are related to blood: blood types, streams, flow, cells, vessels,thinners, poisoning, etc. Rarely can a metaphor lend itself to such broad use without breaking down somewhere. Yet in *Giving
Blood*, the metaphor of blood held up throughout the book, in all its applications. Some people consider the use of the word "blood" to
be politically incorrect; using it as the metaphor for preaching in *Giving Blood* was not only correct, but brilliant.
For anyone who is interested in sermons and preaching for any reason, including critiquing a weekly sermon, I recommend reading *Giving Blood.* Even as a layperson, it was a fascinating and engaging book.
Full disclosure: I am not a preacher, pastor, elder or deacon, but I do participate in a weekly church service. I read an early version of this book. My opinions are my own.
In thirty years of preaching and having obtained two advanced degrees in religion I have read many books on preaching. Let me encourage you right up front: if you are a preacher BUY THIS BOOK. In fact, stop reading this review, search for it on amazon.com and just buy it. Do it. (Why are you still reading this? Go. Now. Buy. It.) After you buy the book please come back to this review and let me tell you why you have just made the best decision you could make to improve your preaching.
Sweet, in this book and other titles, makes it clear we live in a different age. Older folk can be viewed as “Guttenbergers”; ie, those who grew up with the written text. (This usually, but not always, aligns with age groups.) As an older person, I clearly understand what Sweet means. I love holding a physical book in my hand. As I read I think logically. My academic training is such that I resonate with the clear progression of ideas. I think and breath in outline fashion.
But the younger generation is quite different. Sweet calls this newer generation the “Googlers.” These are the people who search the internet for information. And that means they are primarily image driven. Search. Scan. Look at images. On to the next page. Googlers are just not wired to sit through a logical oriented word driven sermon. No wonder younger people often opt out of church services where they must endure a boring lecture.
Sweet’s book is the prescription I highly recommend to assure that you connect with the Googlers. This is why you need to buy this book. (You already bought it, right?) This book will help you to connect with the younger people who desperately need the Gospel message.
At the heart of what Sweet teaches in his book is the concept of using an extended “narraphor” as you preach an E.P.I.C. sermon. A narraphor is an extended metaphor. The best example on exactly what this looks like is for you to read the table of contents in the book you just purchased. (You bought the book, right?)
The title is Giving Blood and the chapters all related to the concept of giving blood. “Giving blood” is the metaphor for the act of preaching. The metaphor becomes an extended metaphor by using the metaphor in different ways as title chapters. That is what needs to happen in preaching using Sweet’s new paradigm. You find the metaphor in the text and work with that metaphor.
But that’s only part of the cure. The material you use in the text needs to be presented in E.P.I.C. fashion. This means it ought to be Experiential, Participatory, Image-Rich, and Connective. It is beyond my scope to teach you what all of this means but you can read it for yourself in the book you just bought. The main idea, however, is to present the material in such a way that it draws people into the narrative.
Here’s an example from my own preaching. I recently preached on the text “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” I distributed small packs of M&Ms to the congregation. I led them through thanking God for the good things in their lives. And each time I told them to be thankful I told them to take an M&M and pop it into their mouth and saying “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” But then I pulled a head of broccoli out of a bag and asked who wanted to taste and see if this was good. (You never know what happens when you preach like this. When I did this a 12 year kid raised his hand and said he loved broccoli. He ran to the front and took a huge bite out of the top.) This Experiential, Participatory, Image-Rich, and Connective moment allowed me to raise this question: “So is it possible that ‘taste and see’ just might mean that even the bitter things in our lives just might be GOOD FOR us?”
The book carefully and clearly lays the foundation for preaching to Googlers. It is complete with workshop sections where you are encouraged to experiment and explore in your own “lab” as you learn to preach while giving blood.
Recently, I led a small group study of this book on Facebook. Participants loved the book. I should warn you, however, that Chapter 5 can be tough going for some readers. This is the chapter that focuses on defining different methods of sermon construction. Please wade through this chapter and keep on going. Once you go through this chapter there remains a Promised Land of sermonic information that will enrich your preaching.
If you only plan on buying and reading one nook on preaching in the next tens years buy this book. If I was a rich man I would buy everyone who reads this review a free copy of the book. Since I am far from rich it is on your shoulders to go and buy it. Oh wait. You’ve already done that, haven’t you?
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It is a whole new lens to look at communicating God's message.