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Book Reviews > Preaching > Firm Foundations: 150 Examples of how to Structure a Sermon

Ray VanNeste

Ray VanNeste
Director of the RC Ryan Center for Biblical Studies and Assistant Professor of Christian Studies

Firm Foundations: 150 Examples of how to Structure a Sermon
Peter Grainger
Details: 2003, Christian Focus Publications, Amazon.comISBN: 1857926781
Posted: June 15, 2004

This book is primarily a compilation of sermon outlines from Peter Grainger, the current senior pastor of Charlotte's Chapel, Edinburgh. Outlines of sermons from 14 different series covering various portions of Scripture are included. The series range from consecutive chapters (e.g., Revelation 1-3, Psalm 120-134) to thematically related passages ("Encounters with Jesus," selections from the Gospels), to character studies (e.g., John the Baptist, David) to complete books (e.g., John's Gospel, 2 Corinthians). The breadth of coverage is a striking element of the book giving ideas about approaching a vast range of genres in various ways, all explicitly expositional. The opening notes for each series also list commentaries and studies which the author has found particularly helpful. The book concludes with a sample sermon, a full manuscript of a sermon on Rev. 2:1-7.

In addition to the bulk of the book, Grainger begins with a six page essay entitled, "Preparing to Preach" where he lays out his basic approach to sermon preparation. He gives good basic advice and is careful to note that there may be various ways to approach the task within the same theological framework. He is clear in his call for exegetical, expositional preaching.

Perhaps the most endearing part of the book to this reviewer was the Foreword by Ian Balfour, the current Secretary of the Church (a position of significant lay leadership in Scottish Baptist churches). In this foreword Mr. Balfour relates the history of the church tracing the history of committed biblical exposition. This history is inspiring as one considers the influence of this church through the years. This account alone is enough to inspire us to uphold the place of lively expositional preaching.

In the end, I would say this book is interesting but not a must buy. The greatest value in my opinion is its testimony to a blessed expositional ministry. I do not find sermon outlines themselves terribly helpful in sermon preparation, and I encourage preachers to spend their time digging for themselves. As a help at the final stages of sermon preparation, the usefulness of this book would be enhanced by including in the Table of Contents not only the series title but the passages of Scripture which are covered.

Ray Van Neste

Union University