Sermons That Sing: Music and the Practice of Preaching, By Noel A. Snyder
Sermons That Sing
  • Length: 200 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: August 17, 2021
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 4933
  • ISBN: 9780830849338

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Preaching and music are both regular elements of Christian worship across the theological spectrum. But they often don't interact or inform each other in meaningful ways.

In this Dynamics of Christian Worship volume, theologian, pastor, and musician Noel A. Snyder considers how the church's preaching might be helpfully informed by musical theory. Just as a good musical composition employs technical elements like synchrony, repetition, and meter, the same should be said for good preaching that seeks to engage hearts and minds with the good news of Jesus Christ.

By drawing upon music that lifts the soul, preachers might craft sermons that sing.

The Dynamics of Christian Worship series draws from a wide range of worshiping contexts and denominational backgrounds to unpack the many dynamics of Christian worship—including prayer, reading the Bible, preaching, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, music, visual art, architecture, and more—to deepen both the theology and practice of Christian worship for the life of the church.

"A fresh and fascinating look into the practice and history of preaching through the lens of music. An insightful and intelligent offering to the field of homiletics even for those who would never call themselves musicians, as Snyder's clear and winsome writing draws the reader into a rich and lively conversation between the two. A great text for those who want to get beyond the noise of preaching and attend to the deeper rhythms within."

Mary S. Hulst, college chaplain at Calvin University

"Throughout the history of preaching, there have been preachers who proclaim the gospel in a musical fashion. They chant, intone, or sing their sermons, literally. Noel Snyder takes readers deeper than historical practice to a theological and methodological framework for engaging homiletical theory through the lens of musicology. Like a musical homiletician, he teaches us how preaching makes music through synchrony, repetition, and teleology. Like a sermonic conductor, he directs us in the gospel symphony of Jesus Christ that is a melody we all should sing. Like a pastoral musician, Snyder leads us to recognize that the melodious good news in the pulpit should be the faithful reverberation of the musical tune of doxology on the altar of our hearts. This book is a must-read for those who desire to practice a hymnic homiletic."

Luke A. Powery, dean of Duke University Chapel and associate professor of homiletics, Duke University

"This positively original book by Noel Snyder is guaranteed to inspire preachers with a vision of sonorously potent sermons that ring true with the good news of the God who, as the poet John Dryden imagines it, sing-speaks creation into being and who mends the human creature with Spirit-ed words that retune the heart to the voice of the Chief Liturgist, Christ himself."

W. David O. Taylor, associate professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary

"Music and language are human universals that are widely regarded as synergistic. How strange it is, therefore, that their relationship is underexplored by preachers whose ministry involves using sound to inspire the church to make a joyful melody to the Lord amid the world's deafening cacophony! Sermons That Sing is a deep dive into a long overdue exploration from which preachers will emerge creatively recharged to competently lead the procession of praise for God, who joyfully sings over us."

Ahmi Lee, assistant professor of preaching at Fuller Theological Seminary

"There are few resources available today that truly bring the homiletic and liturgical arts together in conversation as winsomely as Noel Snyder's Sermons That Sing. This is a resource that every pastor and worship leader should read together. It is an interdisciplinary feast laid out with pastoral grace and acumen that ultimately points us to our singing Savior. I'm already grateful for all that I have learned from it!"

Bruce Benedict, chaplain of worship arts at Hope College and creative director, Cardiphonia Music

"When Amanda Gorman delivered her spoken word at the 2021 inauguration of President Joe Biden, she took her listeners to a place beyond mere prose. As music and poetry can often do, her hearers and viewers were transported, and in measure transformed, because what she gave us sang. All the way to our deepest places of pain and longing, her beautiful, melodic honesty drew us toward hope that lies beyond the prosaic. This miraculous singing is what preaching can manifest. What this very fine book by Noel Snyder underscores is not that music matters per se, but that the spiritual formation of the preacher is what creates the breath from which the singing of the sermon can also rise in the lungs and lives of others. It's not the vocal cords alone but the ruakh offered up from the preacher's soul. May this profound work make more sermons rise and sing better because of it!"

Mark Labberton, president of Fuller Theological Seminary

"Sermons That Sing is essential reading for anyone exploring homiletics as it relates to theology and the arts. Noel Snyder masterfully provides a map to orient us into an expansive conversation, where musicality and preaching converge for a melodious dialogue, and the power and possibilities of Christian proclamation within the arts are given their due with honor."

Trygve Johnson, dean of the chapel at Hope College

"In Sermons That Sing, Noel Snyder avoids mere academic abstraction in favor of substance that generates formative praxis and constructive theology. From Barth to Begbie, from the contours and cadences of tonal harmony to the modal interchange of modern jazz theory, Snyder articulates a musical homiletic in which the relationship between preaching and music is more than merely metaphorical. Through substantive engagement of music theory, musicology, and homiletic theory, Snyder demonstrates how the structures and characteristics of music (such as synchrony, tonality, repetition, and teleology) fulfill a similar function in sermons. By moving beyond music as an illustration for predetermined homiletic techniques, Snyder invites the reader into a new creative and reflective space where the study of harmony fuses with schema of Scripture and the patterns of homiletical communicative action. As a musician and songwriter who is also a preacher and theologian, I found this book to be both intellectually and spiritually satisfying, drawing the reader's curiosity and imagination into the interplay between music and homiletics. Snyder excels by pointing out analogies between music and preaching, and then pointing beyond those surface level similarities toward the more significant deep structures present within both disciplines. These structures function as instruments in the economy of salvation, facilitating the work of the Spirit in the people of God in ways that are deeply creaturely and yet all caught up in the beauty and holiness of God's redemptive, sanctifying, and sonic work. This book is a must-read for those interested in relinquishing neither the role of art and beauty nor the constructive task and praxis of Christian theology, but who long to see their interplay proceed to deeper, more substantive, and spiritually formative integration."

John Frederick, lecturer in New Testament at Trinity College in Queensland, Australia, and author of Worship in the Way of the Cross

Read an Excerpt


List of Figures
Foreword by Jeremy Begbie

1. The Conversation Between Music and Preaching
2. Shaping Communal Time
3. Sanctification Through Hearing
4. The End(s) of the Sermon
5. A Musical Homiletic in Practice

General Index
Scripture Index


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Author of Noel A. Snyder

Noel A. Snyder (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is program manager at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship at Calvin University and an ordained teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA). He was previously a chaplain and director of spiritual life at Alma College and an associate pastor of worship and discipleship at First Reformed Church. He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with his wife, Heidi, and their three children.