I’ve found myself recommending a number of good books to people recently. The fact is that we can glean a lot of wisdom and encouragement from authors who have walked in our shoes and done so very thoughtfully. On these topics, the shoe fits!
Step by Step: Decision Making and the Will of God
Becoming A Dad: An Emotional, Spiritual, Practical Guide (on sale for $5.53!)
Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism
Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (free online)
I do not simply mean by ‘gospel-centered’ that ministry is to be doctrinally orthodox. Of course it must certainly be that. I am speaking more specifically. (1.) The gospel is “I am accepted through Christ, therefore I obey” while every other religion operates on the principle of “I obey, therefore I am accepted.” (2.) Martin Luther’s fundamental insight was that this latter principle, the principle of ‘religion’ is the deep default mode of the human heart. The heart continues to work in that way even after conversion to Christ. Though we recognize and embrace the principle of the gospel, our hearts will always be trying to return to the mode of self-salvation, which leads to much spiritual deadness, pride and strife, and ministry ineffectiveness. (3.) We must communicate the gospel clearly–not a click toward legalism and not a click toward license. Legalism/moralism is truth without grace (which is not real truth); relativism is grace without truth (which is not real grace). To the degree a ministry fails to do justice to both, it simply loses life-changing power.
Tim Keller, Advancing the Gospel into the 21st Century
A number of years ago I attended a brown bag discussion with Tim Keller on Preaching, which followed the now famous Gordon Conwell Preaching Lectures on Preaching to the Heart. During this discussion Keller shared a number of extremely helpful thoughts for young preachers. One on his points was that young preachers won’t find their voice until they have preached 200 sermons, so don’t be so hard on yourself! There are, however, a number of things we can do to improve as we struggle to find our voice and reach the “200 mark’! My friend Josh Otte recalls that discussion and posts more of Keller’s advice here.
In this brief interview, Tim Keller offers some advice on prayer, gospel-centered contextualization, a new writing project, and the new breadth and balance of city centre churches. To get you going, here is his comment on contextualization:
The gospel is the key. If you don’t have a deep grasp on the gospel of grace, you will either over-contextualize because you want so desperately to be liked and popular, or you will under-contextualize because you are self-righteous and proud and so sure you are right about everything. The gospel makes you humble enough to listen and adapt to non-believers, but confident and happy enough that you don’t need their approval.