Communicating Faith in an Age of Scepticism
“Remember that biblical accuracy and Christocentricity are the same thing to Paul. You can’t properly preach any text – putting it into its rightful place in the whole Bible – unless you show how its themes find their fulfilment in the person of Christ. Likewise, you can’t really reach and restructure the affections of the heart unless you point through the biblical principles to the beauty of Jesus himself, showing clearly how the particular truth in your text can be practiced only through faith in the work of Christ.”
Keller has written an incredibly accessible and thorough overview of how to preach. Preaching is a beautifully clever display of intelligence and nuance, and yet consistently steps aside to give God’s Word the power that it deserves (beyond the unsubstantial lip-service of many books). Very balanced, gracious and full, the basics of preaching are theologically grounded and practically advised. Instances of the latter include how to use illustrations effectively and even how to use one’s voice. There is a perspective that would see this as “worldly”, and yet I think one would struggle to find somebody who demonstrates a commitment to this viewpoint with their actions.
Frequently, Keller has profound, simple points to make. His discussion of “topical” or “thematic” preaching is an example of this; despite the received wisdom of the conservative-evangelical tradition that Keller (probably?) identifies with, he gently argues that it is not the greatest evil. Instead, he suggests that both topical and expositional preaching have been used to great effect throughout church history, and that the two categories are not necessarily as exclusive as they might initially appear. Where Keller really comes into his own, however, is in his thoughts on culturally engaging evangelistic preaching. His chapter on this is genuinely world-class, and worth reading on its own.
A personally convicting insight shared by Keller is the danger of over-compensating in anti-nomian contexts by preaching legalistically and vice versa. His solution is obvious, but often missed; preaching Christ every time. In fact, ironically, this may well be the biggest rub to some readers. He has an approach in making a beeline for Jesus in every text that some will find questionable, particularly as he does not show his working as often as will soothe the cautious. Even so, I would happily recommend Preaching to anybody who does, or will, find themselves in a context where they will give a Jesus-related talk, especially if they have not received formal training in doing so.