Timothy Keller, Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Viking, 2015).
I am a preacher, but I have a hard time listening to most sermons. I have learned over the years that I end up being frustrated or disappointed when I listen to most preachers speak to congregations on Sunday mornings. Often I am disappointed by the lack of biblical exposition and depth, and every now and then I am offended by the trite manner the Bible and its truths are handled.
Maybe I am too picky. Maybe I am a bit of an elitist when it comes to good sermons and what they ought to do. But I do know I have a conviction that handling the Scriptures for congregations and communities is a big deal and it demands hard work and prayer. Even though some pastors often sound like second-rate stand up comedians when they talk there is nothing silly about what we do when we preach.
If you are a pastor and you are not learning at least one or two things from Timothy Keller, let this book on preaching be your starting point. Having preached for decades in the spiritual clay of the north eastern United States and many of those in the middle of Manhattan, he has a lot to offer pastors on the ins and outs of effectively preaching the gospel to our culture. His book, Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism, is broken into three sections where he addresses “Serving the Word,” “Reaching the People,” and “In Demonstration of Spirit and Power.”
Keller makes one thematic point a few times in the book in a few ways: the preacher’s job is to be simultaneously faithful to Scripture and to God’s people. To that end he does a wonderful job defending the centrality of expository preaching, discussing how to make us of the whole of Scripture to preach the gospel and Jesus Christ, preach to a post-Christian culture, and providing an insightful outline of what it means to preach from the heart and to the heart. As a Pentecostal I find it ironic that the shortest portion of the book has to do with preaching in the power of the Spirit, but there is still much to commend in that he says.
I do not think I exaggerate if I say that almost every preacher would do good to read this book and put much of it into practice. As with all texts on preaching and communication there will be suggestions that do not fit everyone’s gifts and personality (and Keller recognizes that), but there are still plenty of marvelous and effective principles contained in each section. If you have not paid attention to your craft in a while, or if you have spent too much time trying to sound like the guys and gals on TV, this book is a must.
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