Tag: tim keller

Andy Stanley: Communicating for Change?

In Communicating for Change, Andy Stanley gives us three possible goals for preaching:

  1. Teach the Bible to people.
  2. Teach people the Bible.
  3. Teach people how to live a life that reflects the values, principles, and truths of the Bible.

The third is Andy’s preferred goal, and he leaves room for you to differ with him. So I’m going to differ. He writes:

“We have enough hearers…We need doers, appliers. That means we need sermons that are loaded with application and preaching that is communicated with inspiration.” (99) “

Loaded with application? I agree that we all need to apply God’s Word and that preachers should aid the church in applying the ancient truths of the Bible to contemporary challenges, but I’m not sure that loading our sermons with application is the key. Often, our hearers know “what” to do, but aren’t convinced that they should do it. For instance, they know they shouldn’t envy their neighbor’s stuff, but their heart’s aren’t convinced that God offers anything better than their neighbor’s stuff. Their mind has bought the lie that envy is more satisfying that contentment. The trick is that they would never say it like that. So we ge to say it to them with broken-hearted love and Spirit-enabled power. The goal of preaching, I believe, is to convince the heart to cherish God and his Word so much that Spirit-enabled obedience is the result. I do not believe that the main goal of preaching is to load people up with “what” to do, with application. I do agree that “our goal should be life change,” provided a couple other things are in place.

First, we should preach, not for lives to change just when they leave the sermon and apply them afterwards, but for lives to change while you are preaching. The ancient concept of Spirit-empowered preaching that affects a person’s soul while listening has been lost in modern pulpits. Williams Perkins referred to this kind of preaching as “the art of prophesying.” Jonathan Edwards says it like this:

The main benefit obtained by preaching is by an impression made upon the mind at the time, and not by an effect that arises afterwards by a remembrance of what was delivered.

Tim Keller refers to it as “preaching that changes on the spot.” And here’s the first point, preach in the Spirit. Don’t preach the technique or simply for post-sermon application. Plead for the Spirit to change you in preparation, to preach to you in rehearsal, and to transform your people’s hearts, affections, loyalties during the sermon. Preaching is about Spirit-motivated change, not application-driven change. Note that Stanley’s goal is to “teach people how.” I suggest that we preach for change in the Spirit now. This puts the onus on God, not on your material, humor, delivery, or change goals. The Scriptures are filled with commands to preach, teach, live, speak, counsel, pray in the Spirit, but that prepositional phrase is a hidden endnote for most of us. We don’t look it up, consider it, or aim for it. We pay attention to the verbs, not the prepositions. As a result, we preach application, not Spirit-anointed messages.

Second, we should preach for change by preaching in the Spirit and to the heart. As many have noted, the heart is the control center of our every action. Edwards illustrates helpfully here. He asks if a man who surrenders his wallet while held at gunpoint is actually doing what he wants to do. Does he really want to part with cash? Ultimately, Edwards answers, yes. Even though the man was at gunpoint, he did what he desired to to most–live! C.S. Lewis remarked that we are all creatures of pleasure; we do what we desire most, we act from the heart. Therefore, if the heart is the control center of every decision, then preachers do well—best—to preach, not to the the will (application) or the mind (doctrine), but to the heart. To remind the heart of the one Person that can meet, correct, and surpass every legitimate and illegitimate desire. To remind the heart that it finds its true joy and rest in no one other than God.

And guess what? If your goal in preaching is convince the heart to cherish God and his Word so much that Spirit-enabled obedience is the result, then you don’t have to craft perfect sermons, impeccable rhetoric, mind-blowing illustrations, application for every demographic. Your greatest goal, then, becomes pleading for the Spirit to fall on you as you prepare and on your people as you preach. For God to change your heart now, not how to apply for change.

How does Andy’s goal compare to your goal in preaching? I don’t think I am on board with Andy, but I’m still reading and reflecting. He does make the good point that, whatever your goal in preaching, your approach to communicating must reflect it. And I need to work on that. He also mentions the importance of the “preacher’s burden,” “the one thing you must communicate.” Unfortunatley, this is not developed as Spirit-enpowered, heart-focused preaching.

Culture Making

Andy Crouch’s book, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, is now available. Andy is an editor for Christianity Today and is a creative, insightful author. I had the privilege of reading an early form of this book, which was very good. Though his thesis is not without critique, his message is one that Evangelicals do well to heed–Create, not just critique, culture. Here is a 40 page excerpt, enjoy!

Tim Keller says: “Culture Making is one of the few books taking the discussion about Christianity and culture to a new level. It is a rare mix of the theoretical and the practical, its definitions are nuanced but not abstract, and it strikes all kinds of fine balances. I highly recommend it.

Keller on Managing Church Growth

Tim Keller has an article on “Process Managing Church Growth” in the newest issue of Vineyard’s Cutting Edge. In it he offers some very practical advice on how to manage stages of church growth and adjust church culture accordingly. I will summarize some of his points:

  1. Every church has a size culture that goes with its size that has to be accepted. For instance, to impose the small church expectation of lead pastoral accessibility upon the lead pastor of a large church will “wreak havoc on the church and eventually force it back into the size with which the practices are compatible.”
  2. Everyone knows that at some point a church becomes too large for one pastor to handle. The threshold for hiring another pastor varies from context to context, with “white collar communities demanding far more specialized programs”  thus requiring an earlier hire.
  3. With growth comes increasing complexity which requires increasing intentionality in communication. Here Keller emphasizes a lot of “increasings.”
  • Increased growth requires increased communication–informal, grassroots is no longer effective. This requires more deliberate and systematic assimilation; visitors are less visible. More well-organized volunteer recruitment becomes necessary.
  • More planning and organization must go into events. Higher quality is expected in larger churches and spontaneous, last-minute events do not work.
  • More high quality aesthetics must be present. People enter a service without a knowledge of the ungifted singers who are appreciated “because we all know them.” Visitors are looking for a vertical, not horizontal encounter, with a sense of transcendence.

The whole article is well worth working through and can be found online here. I sense a tension between wisdom and convention in this article. For instance, there is no doubt that I need to think much more about intentionality in all the areas Keller mentions as our church grows. Organic, frayed at the edges kind of stuff can only work so long. However, Keller’s advice seems, in places, to assume a largely staff driven church. For instance, if people are sufficiently trained can they not perform a considerable amount of the “pastoring” without lowering the expectation of pastoral accessibility. Can we not change the expectation to expect pastoral care from one another in the context of a gospel-centered missional community? I’ll be reflecting on this article for a while. You can subscribe to a free copy of Cutting Edge here.

Roland Allen on Church Planting

Roland Allen is basic reading for a church planter, Missionary Methods: Paul’s or Our’s, in particular. People like Tim Keller, David Hesselgrave, and Ed Stetzer have relied on Allen’s foundational insights. J.D. Payne offers a guided tour through Allen’s life and thought in the following article: The Legacy of Roland Allen: Part One-His Life. An excerpt:

In 1912, Allen published his classic work Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? The title of the text revealed much about the book’s content. Allen advocated that the missionary methods of the Apostle were not antiquated but rather to be applied to missionary endeavors in any day and time. Allen stated that “I myself am more convinced than ever that in the careful examination of his [St. Paul’s] work, above all in the understanding and appreciation of his principles, we shall find the solution of most of our present difficulties.” Toward the end of the work, Allen poignantly wrote that “at any rate this much is certain, that the Apostle’s methods succeeded exactly where ours have failed.”

The following year saw Allen’s publication of Missionary Principles. In this work Allen advocated that the indwelling Holy Spirit provides the missionary zeal. For Allen, the end of all missionary desire is a worldwide “Revelation of Christ.” It was his desire to discuss principles not only related to foreign missionary work, but principles that “could be applied to any work anywhere.”