Timothy Keller’s book, Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism is a fantastic resource that should be on the bookshelf – underlined and dog-eared – of every pastor who wants to preach more effectively. In his chapter on preaching Christ to the culture, he lays out “six sound practices for preaching to and reaching a culture.”1
Timothy Keller on How to Preach to and Reach a Culture
1. Use Accessible or Well-Explained Vocabulary
I think the wording of this is important. He doesn’t advocate for not using theological terms at all, but well-explained theological terms. This is vital if we want to speak to those who didn’t grow up in church, who are new to the faith, and who are still not sure if they believe.
In addition, he calls us to avoid this:
There is one more class of terminology to avoid: the “we-them” language that speaks disdainfully of nonbelievers or of other religions or denominations or simply caricatures or maginalizes the positions of people who do not shar eyour beliefs and views. Again, this is not a matter of message control for greater appeal; it’s a matter of gospel integrity and witness.2
2. Employ Respected Authorities to Strengthen Your Theses
This is especially important if those who are listening to you have strong doubts about the Bible. Keller says it simply:
You should reinforce the points you are making from the biblical text with supporting material from sources that your listeners trust.2
3. Demonstrate an Understanding of Doubts and Objections
This goes a long way. We must understand the nuances of people’s doubts and objections before we are going to speak to their heart of hearts. And when we do this well, they’ll respect us and our thoughts on the matter more. Keller says this:
We must be willing to listen so long and well to their questions, concerns, and hopes that when we do speak, we are so well attuned to their views that they feel the force of our appeals and arguments.3
4. Affirm in Order to Challenge Baseline Cultural Narratives
Keller spends an entire chapter on this and it is absolute gold. He seems to have the pulse of our present culture in a way that I’ve not encountered before. The chapter where he talks about this is worth the price of the book alone. What he addresses here are the common sense truth statements of our time (that aren’t actually true). This is what he says:
When you articulate and set out the deep background beliefs behind the slogans, they almost immediately seem less inevitable. Unless we call these out and contrast them to the great themes and offers of the Bible, both believers, and nonbelievers in a culture will be unconsciouly influenced by them.4
5. Make Gospel Offers That Push on the Culture’s Pressure Points
Friend, we have the hope and the truth of the Gospel which offers the best answers to all our concerns in life. Keller calls us to always make it about the Gospel:
To complete the process in our preaching we must show at the very point of this particular [cultural] narrative how Christianity offers far more powerful resources-not only for explaining but also for fulfilling the aspiration or for dealing with the issue.5
6. Call for Gospel Motivation
We must do this for both believers and nonbelievers. The gospel, after all, is more than salvation. It penetrates and alters our entire lives from the moment of faith and onward into eternity. Keller goes on to say:
The gospel not only is the way we are saved but also is always the solution to every problem and the way to advance at every stage in the Christian life.6
This is definitely a different type of preaching book. It is focused far more on the content of our preaching than anything else. I highly recommend you grab a copy of Preaching by Timothy Keller. It will aid you in communicating the gospel in our culture today.
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