Short Review of Michael Fabarez’s “Preaching that Changes Lives”

Overall, I really appreciated Michael’s book – though it was quite eclectic, it was a refreshing read and a good reminder of the task that God has given to those of us who are called to preach.

In his introduction, Fabarez gives the reasons for his book, stemming from the fact that “Jesus’ goal in preaching was to produce a ‘life-changing’ experience” (p. xi). How is this seen in Jesus teaching, Fabarez believes in the simple statement, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” But what Fabarez fails to see is he is trying to take statements directed at the listener to be statements directed at the preacher. If anything, Jesus is not saying “Preachers you need to preach for change,” rather, “Listeners, I just gave you the Word, so now the choice is yours, to believe it or not.” Even when Fabarez quotes from James about being doers and not just hearers, again the statement is toward the listeners, but Fabarez makes it out to be to the preacher. Fabarez then back-pedals slightly by saying that “Some of the blame for this failure in preaching can be rightly attributed to the hardness of the pew-warmer’s hearts” (p. xii). He later goes on to say, while Jesus assumed the message being rightly presented in his parable about the soils, “its proper presentation certainly cannot be assumed today” (p. xiii). But why not? Did Jesus get it wrong? Is the message so complex or difficult? I think Spurgeon had it right (in a quote in this book no less!), “It seems to be that there is more preparation needed by the ground than by the sower, more by the hearer than by the preacher” (p. 154). Fabarez eventually gets it right, but I think he could have done a better job at making his case for the book.

A second problem I had with the book (I am focusing on problems, but overall, it was a wonderful read!) this statement: “Since effective preaching rarely springs from manuscripts or memorized scripts, there is always a certain amount of spontaneity in one’s vocabulary….Pray that God’s Spirit will govern your words” (p. 74). I really do not think that is true. Many preachers preach from manuscripts – did not Jonathan Edwards read “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”? And why must God be limited to directing extemporaneous preaching? Can God not direct the words of a manuscript, hours before the message is given? I do not feel any biblical mandate to never preach from a manuscript, and many times I feel many a preacher would do well to use one, because their thoughts are so jumbled, and their words so vague. I am not advocating that a sermon be delivered without passion, no in fact great passion should be shown, for it is life or death! But whether God can influence the words coming out of my mouth, or the words written on a page is a foolish argument to make a preacher preach extemporaneously.

I was greatly encouraged by Fabarez’s advice to “interlace” (p. 72) prayer into my sermon preparation. To schedule prayer in, as it were, to the various parts of preparation is a wonderfully practical idea, and will be used.


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