Grateful for Tim Keller’s latest book Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism, in which he writes that the New Testament call to preach goes beyond just pulpit ministry. Keller argues that there are three levels of preaching.
Level 1 would be through everyday Christian conversation. “Paul calls all believers to ‘let the message of Christ dwell among you richly’ & ‘teach & admonish one another in all wisdom’ (Colossians 3:16).”
Level 2 would be through things like “writing, blogging, teaching classes & small groups, mentoring, moderating open discussion groups on issues of faith, & so on.”
Level 3 would be preaching as we typically define it today – “the public preaching & exposition of the Bible to assembled gatherings.”
I appreciate these distinctions, because I’ve run into people that say they are called to preach, but then when you suggest they come along to the jail or start a small group or teach a sunday school class, they are unenthused. Biblical preaching seldom included a pulpit because such a thing didn’t yet exist. And sometimes we seem to think that vocational preaching is the highest rung on the ladder & everybody else is just a mere volunteer. Praying we recover Levels 1 & 2, without neglecting Level 3 & that we see all our conversation as preaching instead of preaching as just a possible career.
A few other favorite quotes from Tim Keller in Preaching:
- Every Christian needs to understand the message of the Bible well enough to explain and apply it to other Christians and to his neighbors in informal and personal settings.
- It is dangerous, then, to fall into the unbiblical belief that the ministry of the Word is simply preaching.
- No church should expect that all the life transformation that comes from the Word of God comes strictly through preaching.
- We must beware of thinking the Sunday sermon can carry all the freight of any church’s ministry of the Word.
- a church’s gospel ministry should be “pulpit-centered, but no pulpit-restricted.”
- while the difference between a bad sermon and a good sermon is mainly the responsibility of the preacher, the difference between good preaching and great preaching lies mainly in the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the listener as well as the preacher.
- 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.
- we are loved sinners in Christ – so loved that we don’t have to despair when we do wrong, so sinful that we have no right to be puffed up when we do right
- the temptation will be to let the pulpit drive you to the word, but instead you must let the Word drive you to the pulpit.
Keller’s book is also VERY insightful, as always, on preaching in our modern cultural context. Highly recommend adding this book to your library if you haven’t already.