“…the duties of preachers include not only probare, to instruct and prove, but also delectare, to rivet and delight, and flectere, to stir and move people to action.”
How do you talk about a guy that lived over 2000 years ago when people don’t care about what has happening last week? How do you discuss the events recorded in a piece literature about ancient history, when a large percentage of people can’t be bothered to pick up a book that deals with events of the past decade? How do you preach about faith in an age when everyone is a skeptic and everyone is an expert on doubt?
It’s difficult. There is no way around that. But it can be done. Preaching can be interesting. It can be persuasive without being overbearing. Preaching can be based in an ancient piece of literature and still be relevant and life changing in this modern world.
As the founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Timothy Keller had his work cut out for him when he started the church in the heart of New York City in 1989. As an epicentre of modern growth and progress, Keller was facing skeptics from the start. But that didn’t deter him. In fact, his ministry has grown over the years, to a congregation over 5000 strong. Keller is an excellent orator, but that isn’t what is bringing the faithful and the skeptics back week after week. It is how he is preaching. It is who he is preaching.
Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism is the culmination of over 35 years of experience and much research as Timothy Keller shares how he preaches to both the skeptic and the saved in what he calls “a manifesto, not a manual”. Rather than provide readers with a step by step instruction on how to formula a sermon, Keller shares “why a certain kind of preaching is needed and what that preaching looks like in principle and in example.”
That certain kind of preaching is Christ-centred, Jesus through the whole Bible, type preaching. But how do you do that? How do you see Jesus in the Law, the Prophets? And how do you do that week in, week out? How do you preach persuasively to skeptics and believers?
How do you move passed moralistic, “now, go live better because I told you to” preaching?
You will find all the answers to these questions within the pages of Timothy Keller’s amazing book, Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism.
“…a church’ gospel ministry should be ‘pulpit-centred, but not pulpit-restricted.'”
It’s not that my preaching professor was a bad teacher, or that the books that he assigned were bad. But I truly wish that this was one of the books that we were assigned, if not the only one. I wasn’t taught to always preach Jesus, even from the Old Testament. I wasn’t taught that I need to preach to the skeptic and the believer at the same time, or that such a thing was possible. I wasn’t taught how to use illustrations, only that I needed to have them.
Again, I’m not saying that I had a bad teacher or bad books, something was missed. Such a basic principle in preaching as this, that you should always preach Jesus, should be the first and only thing that is necessary for up and coming pastors to learn. The ‘how to format a sermon’ or ‘how to transition from point 1 to point 2’ are important, but useless if you are not preaching about Jesus.
If you are a bible school or seminary student, put this book at the top of the pile. I would even dare say that you should ignore your other preaching books until you have read Timothy Keller’s Preaching. Christ centred preaching must come before anything else.
I wasn’t sure what good this book would do me, as right now I am not a pastor. I don’t fill the role of preacher in any capacity. But that doesn’t mean that what Keller has to say doesn’t apply to what I’m doing.
Even as a blogger, or someone that has aspirations of writing books, this is invaluable. Keller spells out that preaching is not limited to those that stand behind a pulpit. Preaching is a resource that is good for those involved in “writing, blogging, teaching classes and small groups, mentoring, [and] moderating open discussions forums on issues of faith,”. Having a Christ centred mentality and exegesis is necessary if you are going to properly preach the Gospel in the place and platform that you are called to. Because the Gospel needs to be preached correctly and with great conviction where ever we are.
“To present the Bible ‘in its fullness’ was to preach Christ as the main theme and substance of the Bible’s message.”
While there are many “how to preach” books out there, there are very few that tackle the issue of Christ centred preaching like Timothy Keller’s Preaching. It will convict you for the past sermons when you missed the point, and it will encourage you to preach more about Jesus in the future. Preaching will be a book that I keep ON MY SHELF for the rest of my preaching life.