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Review: The Four Pages of the Sermon, Revised and Updated

Paul Scott Wilson's celebrated preaching text, The Four Pages of the Sermon (Abingdon, 2018) is now available in a revised and updated edition, with additions that reflect advancements in homiletical scholarship and cultural dynamics. First published in 1999, Wilson challenged the New Homiletic movement to emphasize God's gracious activity within the text and to let it saturate the entirety of the sermon—not to use the Gospel as a tantalizing treat at the end of a well-crafted plot. Today, this text stands as one of the most respected and accessible works for preachers at all stages in their ministry.

Wilson argues that there are four main moves, or "pages," in a sermon: the problem in the text, the problem in the world, the grace in the text, and the grace in the world. Like Eugene Lowry's "homiletical plot," Wilson's sermon upsets the listener by exposing a human need and then moves toward resolution through the power of the Gospel. These pages represent an inductive approach to preaching, from problem to solution; however, Wilson encourages creativity and flexibility in form, shuffling pages to accommodate the message of the text.

This book is structured like a week's sermon preparation process, from Monday to Saturday. This would make it a handy guide for beginning preachers who have run out of the model sermons they wrote in seminary. Unlike some preaching texts, which are heavy on theory, Wilson offers a variety of examples from a diversity of preachers, and engages with past and present homileticians graciously. This book is an easy guide that can become both a textbook and a general reference. Wilson provides a checklist for each page, along with a master checklist at the end of the book.

Overall, this is an excellent text for the sermon preparation process. For Wilson, God's activity is at the center of proclamation—and that itself is a valuable contribution to the field of homiletics. It is clear that Wilson has not merely reprinted his past edition but has improved it to meet the needs of a changing world. Wilson's cinematic approach to homiletics would benefit any preacher's ministry, and it is well worth reading and considering.

(My thanks is given to Abingdon for providing a complimentary review copy in exchange for an honest review.)


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