It seems every year at least a few preaching books coming out. In recent days, we’ve seen a steady stream of these books come out from a variety of practitioners of varying experience and skill. One preaching book I knew I was going to read this year and enjoy was Dr. Timothy Keller’s Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism.
Dr. Keller’s book is very good. It covers a lot of the same ground that Bryan Chappel’s Christ-Centered Preaching book does but in a different way. Rather than focusing on laying out a method of preaching, Dr. Keller lays out a theology of preaching that is grounded in the gospel and makes the text the focus of the sermon. This book reminded me of what Charles Spurgeon said when he noted that when he preached he preached the text and made a beeline to the cross. This is what Keller does so well he focuses on the text and doesn’t seek to make the text say what it doesn’t say in order to get suddenly to the gospel in awkward ways. In fact, there is a whole chapter two and three that helpful outlines how to preach the text and then make a beeline to the cross.
Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism is an excellent book on preaching but for every Christian faithfully committed to preaching and teaching the whole Bible and the whole gospel to the glory of God. Keller notes, “Every Christian should be able to give both teaching (didaskalia, the ordinary word for instruction) and admonition (noutheo—a common word for strong, life-changing counsel) that convey to others the teachings of the Bible. This must be don carefully, though informally, in conversations that are usually one on one. That is the most fundamental ministry of the Word. Let’s call that level 1” (2). Level two of the ministry of the Word is “informal, ever-Christian conversation and formal sermons” (2). Keller continues, “Every Christian needs to understand the message of the Bible well- enough to explain and apply it to other Christians and to his neighbor in informal and personal settings (level 1). But there are many ways to do the ministry of the word at level 2 that take more preparation and presentation skills yet do not consist of delivering sermons (level 3). Level 2 today may include writing blogging, teaching classes and small groups, mentoring, moderating open discussion forums on issues of faith, and so on” (4).
This book has three parts. In part one, which has three chapters, Keller looks at preaching the word, preaching the gospel every time, and preaching Christ from all of Scripture. In part two, which focuses on reaching people—the author considers preaching Christ to the culture, preaching and the late modern mind (a chapter that felt more like it should have been delivered as a lecture than in a book), and preaching Christ to the heart. In part three, Keller looks at preaching and the Spirit. There’s also a helpful appendix on writing an expository message that is excellent.
My favorite parts of this book were the prologue and chapter six. In the prologue, Keller notes, “Spiritual eloquence should arise out of the preacher’s almost desperate love for the gospel truth itself and the people for whom accepting the truth is a matter of life and death (14). He continues explaining, “This is how to deliver not just an informative lecture by a life-changing sermon. It is not merely to talk about Christ but to show him, to “demonstrate” his greatness and to reveal him as worthy of praise and adoration. If we do that, the Spirit will help us, because that is his great mission in the world” (17-18). Keller notes, “As we preach, we are to serve and love the truth of God’s Word and also to serve and love the people before us. We serve the word by preaching the text clearly and preaching the gospel every time. We reach the people by preaching to the culture and to the heart” (23). Also noteworthy here is this sentence, “You should be something like a clear glass through which people can see a gospel-changed soul in such a way that they want it too, and so that they get a sense of God’s presence as well” (23). There is also so much from chapter seven and for that matter, the entire book that I gleaned from. One thing, in particular, stands out from chapter chapter, “If you want to preach to the heart, you need to preach from the heart. It’s got to be clear that your own heart has been reached by the truth of the text. This takes non-deliberate transparency. Heart-moving preachers (in contrast to heart-manipulating ones) reveal their own affections without really trying to. What is required is that as you speak it becomes evident in all sorts of ways that you yourself have been humbled, wounded healed, comforted, and exalted by the truths you are presenting, and that they have genuine power in your life” (167).
Preaching by Dr. Tim Keller is an excellent and very helpful book on preaching. While this book doesn’t cover everything related to preaching what it does cover is excellent. This book majors on helping preachers focus on preaching the point of the passage as the point of the sermon and making a beeline to the cross. Sermons that don’t do that fail as Keller states because they are more talk than they are a proclamation of God’s Word. I highly recommend Preaching by Dr. Tim Keller and believe it will serve a rising generation of preachers, along with serving as an encouragement to seasoned practitioners of the seriousness and soberness of the task of preaching God’s Word to God’s people to the glory of the Risen Christ. I encourage you to go pick up Preaching by Dr. Tim Keller and be encouraged and equipped by a seasoned practitioner of preaching.
I received this book for free from Viking for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”