This isn't a new resource, but it's one I recently discovered thanks to a friend in our congregation. Tim Keller and Ed Clowney co-taught a course (or series of seminars) at Reformed Theological Seminary called, "Preaching Christ in a Post-Modern Age" several years ago. It's available-- completely free!-- on iTunesU HERE.
This morning, I listened to the 20-minute introduction to the course and was hooked! (And inspired to preach!) Here's a short synopsis of the introduction and premise for the course:
Keller, who gives the introduction, suggests that there are at least three popular approaches to preaching:
This is more of a lecture, of sorts, based on a "systematic theology" approach to the Bible. Create the categories and pour the content of Scripture into these air-tight compartments. The problem, of couse, is that it is not true to life, and does not necessarily inspire worship.
These are the "how-to" sermons focused only on "life issues"-- budgets, managing stress, raising kids, being productive, etc. These sermons are designed to be instructive and helpful, but can give people the false impression that if we only tried harder or had the correct tools, we could become better ________ (fill in the blank). The Gospel tells us that any journey that does not begin and end with Christ is bound to fail and fall short.
These sermons are aimed at inspiring people with stories. Often light on Biblical exegesis and choc full of stories, this approach is justified as being "narrative preaching." The trouble is it leaves the two biggest pieces out of the Story: our crisis of sin and fallenness and the glory of Christ's redemption and grace. People may leave feeling moved, but without a center that will sustain them through life.
While each of these approaches has merit, to make any one the sole way to preach will result in severe deficiencies, Keller says. Rather, when we make preaching Christ the goal, each sermon may contain a doctrinal aspect and a practical aspect, and certainly a devotional aspect.
So, what does it mean to preach Christ? Keller and Clowney sum it up in this two-fold charge:
1. Show how every Biblical text points to Christ.
Without stretching stories to be allegories or ignoring authorial intent, a preacher must set each text within its larger context of the Story of Scripture. Show how all of Scripture culminates in Christ, and locate your text within that narrative. This is what Keller calls a "redemptive-historical" approach: one that shows the Bible as redemptive history, whose final chapter is yet to come, and yet has already culminated in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
2. Show how every human hope/longing/problem comes to resolution and fulfillment in Christ.
The art here is in being in touch with the deeper inner realities of human life. We need to see beyond surface problems to deep, broken places. This will mean pointing to the root problem of sin. It will mean awakening the great longing for Joy.
Keller says that the goal of preaching is to inspire worship "on the spot" because Jesus has been revealed! While each text may shine a different light on who Christ is and how He is redeeming the world, every sermon can and should reveal Christ in such a way that people are inspired to worship-- with repentant and grateful hearts. As a worship leader-turned preacher, I find this to be a beautiful goal.
May the Lord give all who preach the Word the grace to do so faithfully, so that Christ may-- in the words of the old Anglican Epiphany prayer-- be "known, worshipped, and obeyed."