Preaching By Timothy Keller
A book whose reading will reward any preacher, coming as it does from a proven expositor who regularly proclaims Christ in a sceptical Manhattan
By Timothy Keller
Hodder and Stoughton
ISBN: 978 1 444 70217 0
Reviewed by Martin Poole
The sub heading of Tim Keller’s book sharpens its focus – Communicating Faith in an age of Scepticism. It ensures that whilst he bases his whole approach to preaching as needing to be true to the biblical text, it must finally come to land in the hearts of 21st century people.
Inevitably, given the above summary the first third of his book deals with “Serving the Word”. Early on Tim differentiates between expository and topical preaching, citing the Apostle Paul’s use of both – Paul in the synagogue (expository) Paul in Athens (topical).
Despite accepting the validity of both methods Tim unashamedly believes the majority of preaching should be expository, if for no other reason it is the text that sets the agenda for preacher and people rather than the culture’s preferences. Nonetheless contextualization is vital if the preacher is to communicate the Christian faith in a secular age increasingly hostile to belief in God and Christianity in particular. This ensures that what is delivered is not an arid featureless commentary but a word that can resonate with the hearer.
A constant theme that runs through this book is the difference between “moral preaching”, which calls the listener to try harder (at what he has failed already many times) and a message that leads to a deeper faith in Christ. A memorable passage is “Resist ending your sermon with “live like this”. Rather say “You can’t live like this. Oh but there is one that did! And through faith in him you can begin to live like this too.”
Some maybe disappointed at the modest space given to the final part of his book under the heading “Preaching and the Spirit”. However it would be fair to say that much of the excellent chapter on “Preaching Christ to the Heart”, which takes Peter’s Pentecost sermon as a starting point, also stresses the need for preachers to be those who combine preaching with a deep, rich, private prayer life.
This is a book whose reading will reward any preacher, coming as it does from a proven expositor who regularly proclaims Christ in a sceptical Manhattan.
The Revd Martin Poole (retired Baptist Minister serving churches in Penarth, Godalming and Eastleigh)