In Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism, Tim Keller provides, what he calls, a manifesto on preaching rather than a manual. He doesn’t spend the majority of the book delving into how to pick a biblical text, understand it, write a sermon around it, outline it, and preach it. But he does touch on all these things.
Although this book is entirely approachable from a young, inexperienced preacher/reader, I would not recommend it as a first read on preaching. Instead, I would put a more fundamental “how-to” book in their hands, hopefully one (like Haddon Robinson’s Biblical Preaching) which does deal with issues of personal character and moral/spiritual consistency. I would let them read it and practice applying a book like that first, but then I would push them towards Keller’s book. Every chapter in parts two (on “Reaching the People”) and three (“In Demonstration of the Spirit and of Power”) along with the appendix (“Writing an Expository Message”) had me thinking “this is worth the price of the book alone!” But with three chapters and one appendix as helpful and powerful as these, I guess I should just say the book itself is worth the price of several books.
I did not particularly find the first three chapters enlightening. They are foundational, necessary and helpful, but they left me less than overwhelmed because they covered a lot of ground that I had already experienced as a reader of a couple other preaching books and as someone who has preached sporadically and now regularly over the last 5+ years. What I’m trying to say is this: I would recommend every chapter in this book, but I’d recommend it primarily for parts two and three and the appendix.
Why would I recommend other books first? Like I said, I would point a new preacher to other books which act more like manuals on preaching. A new preacher needs to get straight to the how-to. Local churches and denominations have the authority and responsibility to make sure those who are called to preach have first been called (by their local church not just God) to be holy and faithful. But once they have shown themselves faithful, available, and teachable and the church has decided to allow them to preach, they need to first learn how. I think, while Tim Keller’s book does deal with this throughout, his writing on engaging our current generation and living the life of a preacher are the most helpful parts of this book. He persuasively argues for authenticity and honesty between the preacher out of the pulpit and in the pulpit. He provides necessary information on exegeting (pulling out the underlying truth) of the culture as well as the biblical text. Therefore, a seasoned preacher or new, yet practiced preacher would find more use out of this–in my opinion–than someone who’s completely green to preaching.
I heartily recommend this book to all preachers and people who find themselves preaching.