Book Critique of Witherup’s Interrobang Preaching

Douglas Witherup wrote the book, Interrobang Preaching: (re)Discovering the Communication Secrets of Jesus to explain the core role that Christians were given by Jesus, which is to communicate ‘God’s message’.  Reading the book, the reader is able to identify and understand the (re)discovering Jesus’ interrobang communication secrets of encounter, mystery, and story to unleash and unlock transformation for self and others. Based on the message, the book’s audiences are preachers but I believe any individual/Christian would benefit from the book to help them in communicating the gospel. Therefore, interrobang communication is essential for preachers and teachers of the word in guiding Christians in the walk of Christ. 

At the beginning of the book, Witherup explains some of the ways Jesus taught his disciples (the world) how to communicate. This is presented in, Jesus not only gave us the greatest message of all time, but he also gave us the greatest method to communicate that message. You’ll explore how by (re)discovering Jesus’ interrobang communication secrets of story, mystery, and encounter, you can unlock and unleash transformation in you, your message, and your audience (Witherup 1).

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In the English language, an interrobang is punctuation that combines the exclamation and the question mark. This form of punctuation was first invented by Martin K. Spectator to illustrate a wonder-twin power, which metaphorically means awakening possibility. In preaching, it is a way to rediscover how Jesus methods of mystery, story, and encounter awaken believers or individuals to discover enthusiastically their lives. Although many scholars have criticized this book based on its use of an interrobang, something that is not Biblical, I agree with the concept of the writing. Maybe the author could have used a direct title that is eye-catching and easy to interrupt. 

Reading the first chapter of the book, the reader is able to relate with the application of the metaphor, ‘interrobang’ where he provides seven meanings of the interrobang. The seven applications or explanations are a way to illustrate Jesus Teaching during the time. For example, the preacher should embark on an unknown journey by providing illustrations or encounters. The first explanation is Interrobang is the rush of adrenaline felt through clenched teeth and closed eyes as your feet leave the dock, catapulting towards the cool water below (Witherup 5).  Witherup explains that preachers should apply interrobangs in their teaching to first provide to the audience the taste that is likely to ignite their senses filling the audiences with wonder and excitement a strategy he termed as enthusiastic discovery (5).

Witherup compares the model of enthusiastic discovery to Jesus’s teaching who he terms as the ultimate interrobang. This he explains stating that Jesus provides the Christians with the message, as well as, the process to communicate. This is based on the teaching in the gospel books where Jesus used story, mystery, and encounter, which is tied to the meaning of interrobang. Based on this, interrobang is a rediscovery of a story, rediscovery of encounter, and rediscovery of mystery (Witherup 7).

Personally, reading the title the first time did not provide an idea of what was inside. It denied me the urge to read and relate it to evangelical teaching. However, after a few explorations on the topic, I think the title or the use of ‘interrobang’ in the text provides a way for preachers to arise and embrace their calling with renewed style and passion to reach the contemporary generation. The author illustrates some of the issues that preachers undergo with humming, memorizing, and singing the sermons only to forget the message at the pulpit. This he explains can be solved through the application of SIM card meaning; Jesus told Stories, showed Images, and resigned Metaphors. 

The book in its application of the SIM models is a way to explain to preachers ways to use parables, which are not just stories but which are SIM cards: story, image, and metaphor. Personally, I believe that providing parables or the SIM model is essential in teaching Christians. This is because we often tend to remember stories read and told in Sunday school as they use story, image, and metaphor. Spirituality should be included in the SIM card strategy. 

Another aspect to note from the book is describing how a preacher can move from an outline to a SIM card. This he explains using two points: point one (explaining the Biblical text, illustrating the Biblical text, and applying the Biblical text), which he illustrates using practical examples to demonstrate the use of SIM card model. Witherup also discusses the theology of resonance, which explains the resonance of words and the speaking or the anointing of the resonance. Witherup terms this as a country-music preacher, which includes formulating some steps including paying attention, writing things down, and harvesting native stories (Witherup 137).

Witherup explains the work of Jesus with interrobangs where he states that in His teaching, Jesus used questions. In this, he provides 146 encounters among which in 55 preaching encounters he asked questions. Jesus irrespective of knowing answers to everything, he asked questions to his followers. Another aspect explored in the book is ways in which a preacher becomes a spiritual surfer. In this, the author teaches the audience their goal in life, which is to position them where the spirit’s wind pushes the gospel’s water over their culture’s landscape. 

It is great that Witherrup has touched on the issue of Bible version. With this, we can argue about the best Bible version to use. Should we teach using the first Bible written in Hebrew? How is diffusion in the Bible affecting us? These are some of the elements that Witherup tries to explore. However, it is evident that he does not give the best Bible to use. However, the use of the Jefferson Bible in the Book may be because of its background where although Thomas Jefferson liked the morals of the scriptures, he disliked the supernatural elements in the Bible (Witherup 91). Another aspect explored from the book is spirituality from commentaries compared to that from prayer life. I agree with Witherup that spirituality from prayer life is a revelation that deeply transforms Christians. 

I feel that the book requires some few developments as there are answers that are left unanswered as one reads. For example, how can a preacher measure their creativity? Can it go beyond their teaching rather than the delivery of the word? Another question, where should a preacher reach pout for inspiring ideas (story, image, and metaphor)? Based on the aspect of led by the Holy Spirit, there are some controversies identifiable in the book. How do you know that none is led by the Holy Spirit? This is an immeasurable concept without a concrete answer, which would only be based on perceptions. 

However, irrespective of my counterarguments, I believe Witherup wrote a great book full of creativity. He uses metaphors and other forms of literary works to explain strategies that preachers should borrow to effectively send the message to the congregation. My hope is that more authors would develop separate areas that have been discussed by Witherup. Majority of the Books have viewed preaching as a way to follow or stipulate steps to deliver the message. Others have argued that Biblical teachings require following a well-argued propositional statement to form their sermon. I believe the author’s perspective while writing the book was to teach Christian preachers strategies to teach like Jesus, without much irrelevance but in a way that it would provide and deliver information.

In conclusion, Witherup explores and explains that the process applied by Jesus in His teaching is different from what is applied in the contemporary world. Preachers are more concerned with prosperity gospel rather than the repentance gospel. Following this book is like a recipe to follow during services and while spreading the gospel of Jesus. I believe Jesus used a unique way to teach His disciples and the crowd, a unique strategy that the contemporary preachers need to follow. However, I feel that as a preacher I should not force the SIM model unless applicable during my sermon. All in all, Douglas Witherup book, Interrobang Preaching: (re)Discovering the Communication Secrets of Jesus has the ability to inspire any preacher to teach the word and spread the gospel creating a meaningful connection and lasting influence, to generate a dramatic view of the best preacher. Thus, the use of interrobang communication has the ability to reform the lives of the audience.

Works Cited

Witherup, Douglas. Interrobang Preaching: (re)Discovering the Communication Secrets of Jesus. Interrobang Press, 2014.

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