New York pastor and acclaimed author Tim Keller is widely known and respected for his compelling preaching, described by The New York Times as what has ‘helped turn Dr Keller… into the pastor many call Manhattan’s leading evangelist’.
In this book Keller writes about his experience of preaching effectively but graciously in a secular culture, explaining the importance of preaching to Christians and non–Christians at the same time; the precedence of grace over morality; the centrality of Christ in every text; and the need to capture the heart, rather than just the emotions or the mind, of listeners.
Read Christopher Ash’s review here.
Much of what Keller writes is common fare for books on preaching. What Keller brings to the table is his own day–to–day practice of preaching in a 21st Century post–Christian context. I love what he says about cultural narratives: “And yet, after challenging each culture, he also discerns and affirms its core aspirations.” Another thread is where he helpfully quotes Motyer on people–centred delivery of the truth, asking, “How will they best hear the truth?” What he says about ‘employing culturally accepted authorities’ is also spot on. The concept of ‘defeaters’, underlying meta–objections to God and the gospel, which must be acknowledged and confronted is also very helpful. The sections on making truth real draw on historical sources such as Edwards while also being in touch with 21st century unbelief and its cures. Interestingly, in connection with the Old Testament Keller warns of “getting to Christ too quickly”. If I had a criticism of this book, it would be that in promoting Christ–centred preaching at times Keller loses the distinctiveness of the Biblical text which doesn’t always fit our straight–jacket core gospel message. Abraham’s almost–sacrifice of Isaac does indeed anticipate the Sacrifice of the Only Son, but why draw the conclusion that ‘we can’t do it’? Surely it is not Abraham’s obedience which is inadequate, but rather the sacrifice he wished to offer. The no–one–can–keep–the–law paradigm seems out of place in this case. But overall this is a great book. And the notes section at the back (pp. 241–309) is full of gems too.
This is not really a full manual of preaching, but instead a series of great insights. The chapter on communicating with a secular culture is worth the price of the book alone. He also challenges preachers to find Christ in every text, lest we churn out moralistic "try harder" sermons. The appendix on actually preparing a sermon is also helpful. The book is not just aimed at preachers, but anyone who teaches God's word.
Total Price: £1.99