Tim Keller, Preaching & the Heart – Part I

Chuck with Jan here.

Tim Keller, eminent preacher, author, thinker and communicator writes this.

“It is fundamental to preach biblically, and to preach to cultural narratives, but these are not enough. Unless the truth is not only clear but also real to listeners, then people will still fail to obey it. Preaching cannot simply be accurate and sound. It must capture the listeners’ interest and imaginations; it must be compelling and penetrate to their hearts.”

When we read this chapter opener in Tim Keller’s book Preaching the whole of Christian formatted radio and audio and TV rolled through our minds, with the spectrum of views about what to put on air, how to present the Gospel and how to relate Scriptural truth.

In one part of the Christian radio/TV spectrum are those who would suggest emotionally compelling material with little to no Biblical content; these bounce up against those in another area who would call for clear information that targets the head, and systematically reviews the whole of Scripture. What we were struck with was that Tim Keller clearly thinks that both are required for really changed lives. And we think Keller has a great point.

For us, though, the challenge goes even further. Yes, further. We note that when Keller or others preach, they have a near-captive audience. Rarely do people get up and wander out of a church service, especially with today’s nurseries and padded seats. Here, the audience made a choice to go to the church service. The preacher’s competition may be distracted looking around at other people, or dozing. But it’s not walking out.

For radio and other electronic forms, the competition for attention is much more intense. The listener may be driving, in a car with heavy traffic, with children, or in a hurry to get somewhere. It’s very easy to turn off the radio or change channels. In today’s car, with presets, flipping channels is an art-form. The media distraction literally knows no bounds.

This takes us back to Keller’s point. Head and heart are both needed. He says, “Change happens not just by giving the mind new arguments, but by feeding the imagination new beauties.”

With a heart connection, the mind inclines toward action, raising the batting average in a challenging communication environment. No matter where you (now) are on the content spectrum, that’s worthy of your consideration.

Next in this series, more on what heart means in the Scripture—and how that translates in our worlds.