Long ago, Aristotle said that one of the three key ingredients in an effective communication situation is ethos, the listener's perception of the character of the speaker. Lisa Cressman goes significantly farther by emphasizing that the character, the person, of the preacher is formative for preachers themselves. We prepare for preaching by becoming people whose life is shaped by the gospel so that preaching is an authentic expression of who we are. The book helps preachers become aware in a critical way of the backstories that are at work in us and that inevitably contribute to our preaching, and she shows us how to deepen and broaden those stories through the practice of lectio divina.
Ronald J. Allen, Professor of Preaching, and Gospels and Letters, Christian Theological Seminary
Backstory Preaching brings sermon formation and spiritual formation into a richly textured conversation. Cressman argues that life-giving sermons emerge within relationships of deep trust, shaped by spiritual authenticity and truth-telling. Reading this book and taking the suggested practices to heart will not only improve your preaching, but may also change your preaching ministry into a life-long spiritual journey.
John S. McClure, Charles G. Finney Professor of Preaching and Worship, Vanderbilt Divinity School
For every preacher who has wished for a trusted colleague with whom to share wisdom and insight about the craft of preaching, Lisa Cressman is a true find. An accomplished preacher herself, she writes candidly, conversationally, and compassionately-preacher-to-preacher, friend-to-friend-about both the stress and joy of crafting sermons. There is much valuable and practical advice to be gleaned in this volume, but the main virtue of this book is Cressman's compelling vision of the preaching task, so deeply rooted in prayer and so firmly focused on the gospel.
Thomas G. Long, Bandy Professor Emeritus of Preaching, Candler School of Theology, Emory University
"You're the only one who knows God the way you do, the only one who can reveal God to us the way you can." This is the heart of this book on preaching. So much literature on homiletics focuses on the homily and ignores the homiletician. The Rev'd Cressman offers us a book that gives a word of grace into this omission.
Tripp Hudgins, Bogard Teaching Fellow, Church Divinity School of the Pacific' Berkeley, California
Preachers who pick up this book will sit down for a wide-ranging, free-wheeling, vividly focused conversation with a colleague-one who knows firsthand, and who names succinctly not just the "in's and out's," but the "up's and down's" of the vocation you share. With art and energy, Lisa Cressman has written not a textbook for preaching, but a spirituality of preaching-one pervaded with compassionate wisdom and practical strategies for soul formation, sermon formation, and the disciplined practices of heart and mind that bring both together in a lifegiving process of mutually creative nurture. Unequivocal about the demands of the vocation and the disciplines it requires, she demonstrates how the duties of preaching can become sources of personal delight.
David J. Schlafer, author of Your Way with God's Word, and Playing with Fire: Preaching Work as Kindling Art
It is true that clergy who have worked with The Rev. Lisa Cressman and have practiced the Backstory Preaching method are better preachers for having done so. However, this is no mere prescription to heal what ails the preacher's performance. Cressman invites nothing less than the renewal of the art of preaching in our time through the renewal of the preacher's soul for the sake of the Gospel. Through the integration of one's own life and spirituality into this vessel called a sermon, Cressman invites each reader and practitioner to discover that we ourselves are Good News.
The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, Episcopal Diocese of Texas, Author of The Jesus Heist: Recovering the Gospel from the Church
Most works of homiletics help preachers identify the message they hope to convey, the methods they might use to convey it, the factors that constrain or facilitate the hearers' acceptance of the message, etc. The Rev'd Lisa Kraske Cressman's Backstory Preaching concentrates instead on the preacher, asserting that it is impossible to preach effectively without praying regularly. She adapts the four stages of lectio divina (lectio = "reading"; meditation = "hunting for meaning(s)"; oratio = "expressing the meaning(s)"; contemplation = resting) for praying a sermon into being. An eminently practical contribution to homiletics, Cressman's work is marked by helpful anecdotes, useful summaries and an online "workshop" inviting the reader to integrate its concepts not only in completed sermons but in developing one's spirituality.
Fr. Jan Michael Joncas
This is an honest book offering real hope. I look forward to using the big insights of this little book with both beginning and seasoned preachers.
Gregory Heille, OP, professor of preaching and evangelization, Aquinas Institute of Theology