Augsburg Fortress

Writing for the Ear, Preaching from the Heart

Writing for the Ear, Preaching from the Heart

Words bombard us every day. Words can be noisy and cheap. And yet, words are all preachers have. In Writing for the Ear, Preaching from the Heart, Donna Giver-Johnston addresses the question: How do you capture ears in an era of noise? Many preachers want to get away from their notes and make a more personal connection with their listeners, but they have not been mentored in methods that enable them to do that.

Grounded in a theology of incarnation and articulation and coupled with an awareness of what listeners most need and want to hear, Giver-Johnston explains how preachers can communicate more effectively--how they can write sermons for the ear, with the fewest, most impactful words to craft a memorable message. She also provides guidance on how to preach sermons by heart, without notes, to communicate a message that captures the ears and hearts of listeners.

In a time when attention spans are shortening and church participation is declining, this book provides a proven method for preachers to communicate in ways that are meaningful and memorable to aching ears today and that can change the world for good, and for God, one longing heart at a time.

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  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506463230
  • eBook ISBN 9781506463247
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5
  • Pages 136
  • Publication Date August 10, 2021


"This book is a fresh, helpful guide for the preacher who yearns to be able to remember her sermon during its delivery and for it to live in her congregation's memory long after she has ceased to speak."

Alyce M. McKenzie, Southern Methodist University

"Giver-Johnston's book is packed with the wisdom of experience, a step-by-step approach as inspirational as it is practical. The author encourages preachers to take new risks for a new time and then empowers them with the skills and confidence to do it."

Anna Carter Florence, Columbia Theological Seminary

"Giver-Johnston reveals her own heart for human need, her own ear for the cries of suffering, her own capacity for lament over fractures in our society, and her own tenacious hope in the healing power of the gospel."

Thomas G. Long, Candler School of Theology

"Writing for the Ear, Preaching from the Heart calls preachers to embody their words in a way that reaches the imagination of the listener. This book distills immense scholarship without distracting, it's an invigorating book for preachers."

Joy J. Moore, vice-president of academic affairs and academic dean, and professor of biblical preaching, Luther Seminary

"Donna Giver-Johnston encourages us preachers to recover Christian preaching as a miraculous undertaking in which the gospel arises from the heart of the preacher and goes forth to the ears of our listeners, enchanting, engaging them in ways that take us to the heart of the gospel itself."

William Willimon, Duke Divinity School

"Donna Giver-Johnston composes a theologically rich, spiritually sensitive, and pastorally wise guide for all preachers. She shows us that preaching can meet our shifting cultural landscape and how, from sermon preparation to delivery, we can break down barriers between pulpit and pew."

Richard W. Voelz, associate professor of preaching and worship, Union Presbyterian Seminary, author of Preaching to Teach: Inspire People to Think and Act (Abingdon, 2019)

"Informed by deep engagement with homiletical scholarship, years in fruitful parish ministry, and genuine love for Jesus, this winsome book is rich with wisdom for preachers willing to risk doing something new to better fulfill their marvelous calling."

Sheldon Sorge, general minister of Pittsburgh Presbytery

"Recently Donna Giver-Johnston shared an event that caused a 'swirl of words' in Pittsburgh. There was so much noise, she realized her call was to listen for the right word to speak. Such a tension in our society today: the exhausting, noisy words of anger and unleashed grief and the need for gospel words in response. Our ears, as a society, are tired. We ache to hear otherwise. Donna Giver Johnston offers a way forward here: she has me listening."

Lisa Nichols Hickman, pastor, teacher, and author of The Worshiping Life, Writing in the Margins, and Praying the Alphabet

Table of Contents


Chapter 1 Aching Ears

Chapter 2 Longing Hearts

Chapter 3 Writing for the Ear

Chapter 4 Preaching from the Heart