I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed with this book. Even though the content was really good. It might have been the high expectations I went into reading it with. When I read the title, got through the introduction, I was hooked. I was expecting an earth shattering book on preaching. While there was plenty of really good things in it, it didn’t stand up to the expectations I had.
One of the more interesting aspects of the book, besides the scientific realities of the brain and preaching was the author’s emphasis on how preaching heals. The author started with the healing of the brain, instead of the heart. This was interesting, because it is different than other preaching books. Cox said, “The human brain searches for evidence for any ability to heal. It yearns for wholeness and thus is in constant search for ways to correct the broken relationships between God and human beings and among human beings, to heal the soul, mind and body of each of us.” While the heart drives the person according to Scripture, the mind is an important piece. The mind remembers and scientifically, drives the body. I think this is important for preacher’s to keep in mind as it is easy to forget how God created us.
As far as the science is concerned, the most important aspect to preaching was when Cox said, “The brain will not-and indeed cannot-occupy itself with unessential information. Only what is essential to the preservation and enhancement of the person is entertained, so the absolute core of all preaching must be to engage the thought processes that trigger the emotional underpinnings of personal reward. The mind responds to what is most urgent for survival, gratification and growth.” If a preacher cannot make something important, people will forget it and not apply it. We must answers the question of why something matters. Why is this sermon so important?
Here are some things that jumped out in my reading:
Preaching to the mind while disregarding the heart is to preach in vain; and preaching to the heart while disregarding the mind is equally of no gain.
The psychological and neurobiological fields have raised the bar on our understanding of how preaching can be done and how sermons are received and interpreted by the brain.
Intentional, purposeful preaching can actually produce new neural pathways that cause the brain to change the way it thinks and how its owner acts.
Memory coupled with new information, based on perceived need, is the engine that drives the brain to change. Preaching must build on past knowledge by bringing that knowledge into the present, coupling it with new information, and making it meaningful for our future need before we need it.
Productive preaching requires both fact and feeling.
Neuroscience has shown that when new information is repeated continuously and sequentially, it produces changes both in the process of cognition and in the resultant thoughts.
Unless future necessities are made to have importance at the moment, memory of new information is stored for a future time and therefore has little immediate value-unless the future need is made clear.
Intentional preaching demands a response.
In preaching, we must remind the listener that feelings are just that, and although the feelings are real, the truth may well be elsewhere. Even when feelings represent truthful happenings, they are always diminished or exaggerated over time; they are never perfect, even in the moment of the event.
Sermons given as isolated, individual messages force the brain to work much harder in relocating and reattaching information, thus requiring much greater memory-and motivation.
Being a good preacher and being an effective pastor are very different, require different skills and support each other. Effective preaching is the foundation for successful pastoring, and being an effective pastor encourages listeners to “hear” the preaching.
Pastoring is the application of the preaching, and preaching is the basis for the pastoring.
Although there are doubtless many reasons why some churches thrive and others don’t, a study of church history shows that the powerful preacher always creates a significant place in the community.
All in all, if you preach, this is worth reading simply because it comes at preaching from a completely different perspective than other books.