Review of ‘Teaching Amos’

Teaching AmosThe book of Amos is currently one of the things that I’m spending a lot of time thinking about. As part of that I was able to prepare a sermon series on Amos. The book that I found most helpful when preparing this sermon series was Teaching Amos by Bob Fyall.

I was studying at Durham whilst Bob Fyall was working there; he was a great preacher and that comes across in this book. Although not up to his standards, I’m sure, I’ve also preached a couple of sermons on Amos 1 and 2, and Amos 7 and 8.Teaching Amos is part of a series called ‘Teaching the Bible’ by the Proclamation Trust which is designed to complement commentaries to aid “effective preaching”.

It includes a general introduction on the main themes in Amos, the historical background, and so on. It then suggests a number of different ways of organising a sermon series on Amos. The main part of the book then goes through Amos chapter by chapter drawing out the main themes and suggesting what the main points for an expository sermon on the chapter would be. It then ends with a chapter on the main themes and a brief overview of the main commentaries on Amos.

One of the most helpful parts of the introduction is how to effectively deal with repetition in preaching. Fyall notes that repetition is often found in the prophetic books, as the prophet strives to get their main point across. He says “A close study of the text often reveals that what appears to be simple repetition is, in fact, reiteration and re-emphasis, employing subtle shifts in content and tone.” He also counsels against getting bogged down in the material by dealing with the themes in proportion to the amount the prophet dwelt on them, and also planning the overall series to highlight specific themes as they are repeated. I found this helpful advice for preaching on much of the Bible, which is why I’ve repeated here at length!

The main sections, on each of the chapters in turn, were also on the whole helpful. I still remain unconvinced about preaching a whole sermon on the first two verses however! (Which is how Bob suggests starting the series!). There is also the occasional sound of (conservative) axes being ground: “be cautious when listening to those who argue that in our visual culture, drama, visual aids and non-verbal methods, such as mime, would be more effective ways of conveying the gospel.”

But, the drawing out of the main themes and then multiple suggestions on how to organise the sermon is very useful – I was particularly struck by Fyall’s summary of Amos 5, which he entitled “Stop playing at meetings”, drawing out the need for true worship of God to flow into justice. This is also picked up in the final chapter on themes, where Fyall argues that “Amos links social justice with the nature of God”. The ‘God of History and Creation’ shapes the whole of Amos’ message, and this is clearly drawn out in this very useful book.

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