PEW RIGHTS by Roger Van Harn ($18)*

EER: 0-8028-4784-6

If preachers have responsibilities, listeners have rights. That is the thesis behind this book and its title. Rights, after all, are the counterpart of responsibilities. Children's rights derive from parental responsibilities, patient rights are rooted in health-care responsibilities, civil rights issue from social responsibilities, and pew rights are based in pulpit responsibilites. The twelve pew rights identified in these chapters are framed by a single proposition: “We listen to sermons from Bible texts in God's story to us in God's story to hear the Word of God.”

The rights described here include: When we listen to sermons, we have the right to hear a pioneer listener speak, we have the right to hear a Word addressed to our basic human needs, we have the right to see our culture in the light of God's Story, and we have the right to hear the faith of the church proclaimed from the church, to the church, for the world.

Those who preach and those who listen will benefit from reading this book together. It will strengthen their partnership and deepen appreciation for their respective roles.

Table of Contents

    Foreword, by Thomas G. Long


  1. Where Would You Like to Sit?
  2. A Pioneer Listener
  3. Hiding among the Trees


  1. The Story behind the Text
  2. The Story around the Text
  3. What the Text Says and Does


  1. What's Happening?
  2. Two Pairs of Spectacles
  3. Don't Check the Yellow Pages


  1. The Audacity of Listening
  2. “Church Preaches to Church”
  3. Come, Listen with Us

    Bibliography and Gift List

Reviews and Commendations

"Roger Van Harn’s startling message must be heard by everyone who listens to or preaches sermons: listeners have rights. And it's about time they claimed what they have coming to them — the good news compellingly and authentically preached. . . . A sharp, pungent, painful, hopeful word for pew and pulpit." - Lewis B. Smedes

"This book provides a fresh angle on preaching by examining it from the perspective of the hearer. It evidences wide reading, responsible scholarship, insightful discussion, honest facing of problems, clarifying examples, stimulating suggestions, and an easy reading style. Highly recommended for preachers, worship committees, adult study groups, and anyone who seeks greater insight from listening to biblical sermons." - Sidney Greidanus

"An insightful, splendidly written book by a gifted pastor who knows and loves preaching. At once richly theological and profoundly practical, this book gently guides us away from a preoccupation with the preacher toward a rediscovery of preaching's true measure: what people in the pews hear. Roger Van Harn encourages preachers to become “pioneer listeners,” those who listen before they talk. More important, he teaches us how to do so." - Thomas G. Long

"On target, sympathetic, and clearly written, Pew Rights is the plainest statement I've read of what really matters in the hearing and the preaching of the gospel. Congratulations to Roger Van Harn for a fine piece of work." - Clyde E. Fant

"Here’s a book for sermon listeners. Pew Rights is a smart, sensitive delight. Any book for pew sitters is of course must reading for preachers as well." - David G. Buttrick

"Roger Van Harn knows his bible and he knows preaching. Out of the two he presents a thought-provoking view of what the listener in the pew should expect and do." - Elizabeth Achtemeir

"I have known Roger Van Harn for many years, and this book is the rich fruit of his lifelong quest for faithful competence in preaching. . . . The instruction includes profound theological Insight into the nature of the gospel, moving stories like Neal Plantinga's reflections on the “wrath of the lamb,” and solid commentary on the church's call to be the church in American culture. Through it all Van Harn emphasizes that preaching is not a solo performance by a preacher who is both impresario and star. Rather, preaching, like worship, is “work of the people.” This volume will be an invaluable aid in that work right up to the concluding bibliography, where Van Ham identifies books most useful for listeners to give to preachers as a sign of their collegiality." - Walter R. Bouman

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