Book Review: Preaching

Preaching:  Communicating Faith In An Age Of Skepticism, by Timothy Keller

When one reads a book like this one can get a ready sense of the border between style and strictures.  More than a decade ago I gave a speech to the local Spokesman’s Club about the proper way to fold a towel, commenting on the dogmatic views on the subject my maternal grandmother felt, and the audience, most of whom knew her, were very amused by it.  The point, though, was that some people have very strong opinions about matters that are properly questions of personal style and opinion.  I get some of that sense here, as I figured from someone like the author from the Presbyterian tradition.  There are also some elements here, of course, where the author does not always live up to his high standards, which is easy enough to understand given that this book posits a very high standard of expository preaching for its reading audience, something that many people are likely to have a difficult time doing and that some people do not even attempt to do.  That said, though, this is in general an excellent book that gives wide advice to Christian preachers, and as someone who is a fond student (and practitioner) of the speaking arts, it is a book I certainly appreciated.

In a bit more than 200 smallish pages, the author discusses the question of preaching the Gospel message.  He begins with an introduction on three levels of the ministry of the word and then moves on to the question of what good preaching is (as opposed to a rhetorically sophisticated message).  The first part of the book consists of three chapters that seek to encourage the reader to serve the word (I) by preaching the Word of God (1), preaching the Gospel every time (2), and preaching Christ from all of the scriptures (3).  After that the author moves to a discussion on reaching the audience (II) by preaching Christ to the culture (4), preaching a message of repentance to the contemporary generation (5), and preaching Christ to the heart and not only the head (6).  The author then closes with a discussion on the importance of demonstrating the Spirit and power of God (III) that focuses on the relationship between preaching and the Spirit (7).  After this there is a section for acknowledgements as well as an appendix that gives help on the writing of expository messages.

This book is a bit more narrowly focused than many of the books I have read on the subject [1], but it certainly does a good job at encouraging the reader to prepare themselves for speaking and not only their message.  The target audience appears to be those who speak on a regular basis to their congregation, and who can be expected to be able to give sermon messages that are of sufficient length that it is possible for them to give messages on any part of the scriptures that will lead to a discussion of the Gospel in some fashion.  The author probably thinks of this text as an authoritative work on preaching expository messages–for some reason he does not focus as much on topical messages–and shows himself to be a Calvinist with a particular fondness for verse-by-verse commentaries as messages.  And though he tries in his introductory material to be open-minded about what constitutes preaching the gospel, most of his message does not appear to relate to Christian bloggers or writers of article and more to speakers who verbally present to a present audience.  You can take or leave most of his advice, but a great deal of it is worth taking even if the author is far too interested in Hellenistic than biblical Christianity for my tastes.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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