Every Friday, I plan to share select quotes from a book I am either currently reading or have previously read. Few things have impacted my faith and life as much as reading has. This will be just one way I promote books and reading. These articles will be for the dedicated reader who loves to gain insight from as many books as possible. They will also be for the Christian looking for new books to read. I am always on the lookout for new books to read. Hopefully some things I share will lead you to pick up a new book. Finally, these articles will be for those of you too busy to read. Hopefully these quick quotes will provide you with easy access to books you would otherwise not have time to read. Each article will include a brief discussion of the author and his work followed by ten (or more) pertinent quotes from the book.
The regret I have about reading Tim Keller this year is that I am just now reading Tim Keller. He is one of the most profound writers and preachers of the last 50 years. He effectively reaches people not many people or churches are reaching. He is highly appealing to liberals without being liberal. He has led a growing and flourishing church in Manhattan since the 1980s. Keller writes and speaks intelligently and is one of the most culturally aware preachers in America. Much like Albert Mohler, Keller always provides clear and prolific analysis of worldviews. And boy does he bring the gospel heat! I have learned to listen to a Keller sermon nearly every morning, if for nothing else for the cultural insight and gospel hope. Keller clearly exposes the gospel in biblical and compelling ways. His preaching, much like John Piper’s, is modernly unparalleled.
So, for any serious preacher of the gospel, Keller’s book Preaching is an absolute must-have. Like all of Keller’s books, readers find rich gospel teaching and application. This book is the farthest thing from a how-to book, even though Keller does include an instruction guide for crafting an expository sermon in the appendix. It is more of a wise older man passing on his experience and wisdom to younger men in the ministry. Preaching offers much regarding his philosophy and theology of preaching, as well as pointed practical advice for effective preaching. Keller is a staunch defender and exemplary demonstrator of expository preaching. But what separates Preaching from most (if not all) works on the topic is Keller’s revelation of his insight into the modern mind. He basically teaches preachers how to speak intelligently and effectively to modern people. What I’m basically saying is chapter 5 is a gold mine. So many preachers fail to appeal to the secular mind. So much so that most secular people write off the church because they think the Bible is an ancient relic that “speaks” only to the unenlightened or easily manipulated.
Bless your pastor by getting him this book. Pastor, read this book! I’m confident God will use it to greatly impact and improve your preaching. Much of Keller’s book cannot be boiled down to a few quotable statements. Its richness demands to be read in context. With that said, here are twenty-five quotes from Keller’s Preaching because ten is just not enough.
1. To reach people gospel preachers must challenge the culture’s story at points of confrontation and finally retell the culture’s story, as it were, revealing how its deepest aspirations for good can be fulfilled only in Christ.
2. A good sermon is not like a club that beats upon the will but like a sword that cuts to the heart.
3. As we preach, we are to serve and love the truth of God’s Word and also to serve and love the people before us. We serve the Word by preaching the text clearly and preaching the gospel every time. We reach the people by preaching to the culture and to the heart.
4. You should be something like a clear glass through which people can see a gospel-changed soul in such a way that they want it too, and so that they get a sense of God’s presence as well.
5. Expository preaching is the best method for displaying and conveying your conviction that the whole Bible is true.
6. Only if we preach Christ every time can we show how the whole Bible fits together.
7. Every time you expound a Bible text, you are not finished unless you demonstrate how it shows us that we cannot save ourselves and that only Jesus can.
8. When the preacher solves Christians’ problems with the gospel–not by calling them to try harder but by pointing them to deeper faith in Christ’s salvation–then believers are being edified and nonbelievers are hearing the gospel, all at the same time.
9. The key to addressing at the same time both those who believe and those who do not–and even subgroups within cultures–is to go down to the heart level and call for gospel motivation in your preaching.
10. Only in Christ can any cultural plotline have a happy ending.
11. As you write the sermon, keep in mind the objections that skeptics would have to the teaching of a particular text, then take a moment to address them using agree-to-disagree reasoning.
12. The Christian preacher must be a critic of nonbelief. However, there is no virtue in being an unsympathetic one.
13. If you over-contextualize and compromise the actual content of the gospel, you will draw a crowd but no one will be changed…On the other hand, if you under-contextualize, so that your communication of the gospel is unnecessarily culturally alien and distant from the listeners, you will find that no one will be willing to hear you out.
14. If you don’t begin with the Bible, we will almost certainly come to superficial conclusions, having stacked the deck in favor of our own biases and assumptions.
15. Christianity is at the same time both far more pessimistic about history and the human race than any other worldview and far more optimistic about the material world’s future than any other worldview.
16. A Christian, as it were, arrives at far higher self-esteem by getting much lower self-esteem. Only if we repent and admit we are far worse than we ever imagined can we become justified, adopted, and united with Christ, and therefore far more loved and accepted than we ever hoped.
17. Let the biblical text control you, not your temperament. Learn to communicate “loud” truth as loud; “hard” truth as hard; and “sweet” truth as sweet.
18. There is no abstract, academic way to preach relevant, applicatory sermons. Application will naturally arise from your conversation partners.
19. Insightful preaching comes from depth of research and reading and experimentation.
20. As we preach we should always open ourselves to let the wonder sink in.
21. The essence of a good illustration is to evoke a remembered sense experience and bring it into connection with a principle.
22. Heart-moving preachers (in contrast to heart-manipulating ones) reveal their own affections without really trying to.
23. Your loves show what you actually believe in, not what you say you do.
24. The goal of the sermon cannot be merely to make the truth clear and understandable to the mind, but must also be to make it gripping and real to the heart. Change happens not just by giving the mind new arguments but also by feeding the imagination new beauties.
25. Whatever captures the heart’s trust and love also controls the feelings and behavior. What the heart most wants the mind finds reasonable, the emotions find valuable, and the will finds doable. It is all-important, then, that preaching move the heart to stop trusting and loving other things more than God.
Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church in East Bernstadt, KY. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their son, Jude Adoniram.