Pastor and Professor offers 25 tips in “Small Preaching”


BELLINGHAM, WA (ANS) —  In a world where bigger is always better, author Jonathan T. Pennington presents a countercultural idea by challenging pastors to focus on smaller habits that produce big results over time.

Cover artwork for Small Preaching

In his new book, “Small Preaching: 25 Little Things You Can Do Now to Make You a Better Preacher,” published by Lexham Press, Pennington provides constructive teaching steps to guide pastors toward intentional and effective preaching.

In “Small Preaching,” Pennington, who is an associate professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is also on the preaching staff at Sojourn East in Louisville, Kentucky, walks through 25 words of wisdom that will help shape pastors’ preaching for the better.

“‘Small Preaching’ is not a book on the philosophy or practice of preaching, but rather a collection of short, easily digestible essays which invite the reader to see the world differently,” said Pennington.

“The essays are dynamic and provide various approaches, topics, content and modes to challenge the reader’s assumptions and habits on leadership and preaching.”

Drawing on years of teaching and education, Pennington brings specific expertise to write this timely and impactful book. Hoping that small ideas can have big consequences, Pennington explains the value of playing the long and methodical game with displaying sincerity and intentionality.

“Pennington so helpfully reminds us that preaching is a ‘slow art’ and he pays attention to things not usually covered in traditional books on preaching, things which, nonetheless, are so much a part of the real-life of the preaching task,” said Mike Bullmore, senior pastor of Crossway Community Church.

“This book is stimulating and provocative, and it will make you think about your preaching. That, in turn, will bear good fruit, maybe even as soon as this coming Sunday,” he said.

Highlighted topics of discussion within “Small Preaching” include:

  • The Person of the Preacher,
  • Handling Praise Carefully and Gladly,
  • Handling Criticism Carefully and Humbly,
  • The First Minute of a Sermon,
  • The Last Minute of a Sermon and
  • Distinguishing between Preaching and Teaching.

“I have had the great privilege and joy of being both a teacher and a pastor for the last 25 years. As I continue to labor in both of these areas, I find that everything for me boils down to hermeneutics and homiletics. Or to say it another way, all my Christian ministry comes down to the twin issues of how to read the Bible and how to proclaim it,” said Pennington.

Most of the books he has written have focused more on the “how to read” part of his ministry. Small Preaching focuses on the “how to proclaim.”

“And specifically,” he said “I didn’t desire (or feel qualified) to offer a comprehensive vision for the whole philosophy and practice of preaching. There are plenty of great books out there that do that. Instead, I wanted to help preachers of all ages, personality types, and experience to take some small steps toward improving their craft.

“Good teachers and preachers care enough to continually learn and be intentional about what they do. Small Preaching casts a vision and gives some practical direction on how to do so.”

Pennington said the inspiration for the idea of taking small steps comes from a great book about being a better professor, Small Teaching by James Lang.

“While my book is very different than Lang’s — he focuses on the neurology of learning — I gladly ‘stole like an artist’ (see chapter 25 of Small Preaching) with this idea that small steps are the way to make real improvement. I’m thankful to God for the ways I have improved as a teacher from this book.

“At the same time, one of the greatest blessings in my life over the last four years has been a committed writing group that I help lead. This group of friends and fellow authors has pushed me to improve in the craft of writing, to not be sloppy and abstract and long-winded as an author, but to learn to write in concrete and practical ways. I could not have written Small Preaching without these guys.

“So, looking back, I can see that God used these two unrelated parts of my life to lead me to write this book.”

His aim and hope is modest. “I simply want to encourage fellow pastors to make some little changes in how they think about the life and practice of preaching. Small steps done over time can make a huge and lasting impact on who we are and what we do.

 Simple Habits, Practices and Exercises

“Preaching is hard– emotionally, physically, mentally, psychologically, spiritually. And we all stumble, struggle, and fail in many ways. I hope Small Preaching will be a breath of fresh air and a source of renewal in this joyful but difficult calling. I hope my readers will try taking some intentional small steps to grow in the craft of preaching.

Pennington concluded: “I hope this book helps both preachers who are just starting to hone their skills and seasoned ministers alike,” said Pennington. “All [the essays] invite you to consider small changes that can add up to big effect, no matter whether you are about to start at your first church, or are an old pro. So come and start small.”

Pennington is associate professor of New Testament interpretation and director of research doctoral studies at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also a preaching pastor at Sojourn East Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Pennington is the host and co-producer of the video series Cars, Coffee, Theology and the author of numerous books, including Reading the Gospels Wisely and Jesus the Great Philosopher.

 To learn more about “Small Preaching” visit,

The author of this story, Michael Ireland, is a self-supported media missionary with ANS. Click here to support him as a missionary journalist.