Tim Keller: Preaching to the Heart at TGC15 (Transcript)

Full text of Christian apologist Tim Keller’s lecture: “Preaching to the Heart” at the TGC 2015 National Conference in Orlando, Florida.

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Tim Keller – Theologian, and Christian apologist

Our Father, we thank You that You’ve gathered so many people here to learn how to understand Your word and learn of Your word, learn how to communicate Your word here at this Gospel Coalition conference this year. Thanks for bringing us here safely. Thanks for the innumerable interactions that strengthen our hearts, strengthen our relationships, strengthen our ties with You and with each other. Thanks for the instruction that’s going on right now, especially I pray not only for us here, but for all the workshops, that you would help us to stir each other up to love and good works, iron sharpening iron, learning, having the word of God dwell on us richly. We pray that this would happen in all these various workshops and classes. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Okay. I’m glad to be with you. This is supposed to be a workshop. Isn’t that a laugh, with this many people? However, I’m going to do this. I’m going to give you a talk, a lecture, and then, even though only a very tiny percentage and probably the most pathologically extroverted of you will have an opportunity to ask questions.

We will have some mics up front. There’s quite a lot of you, and the ones who want to ask questions should, because it’s just so boring to listen to somebody talk for an hour. I want you to be able to drill down on some things that you hear and get a little more information.

So Preaching To The Heart, the subject. Alec Motyer, in his great little book, “Preaching?” Alec Motyer is an Old Testament scholar and an expository preacher. He’s British or Irish, I think. And he’s, I think, in his 90s now and written a great little book on expository preaching. And in the book, he says this. He says that “preachers have not one, but two responsibilities, ‘first to the truth’, and secondly to the particular group of people in front of you. How will they best hear the truth? How are we to shape and phrase it, so it comes home to them in a way that is palatable, that gains the most receptive hearing and avoids needless hurt?”

So what Motyer says is if you want to be —  if you’re a communicator of the Bible, you’ve got two responsibilities. You’ve got a responsibility to the truth, to hold it up, to present it accurately, to make sure you’re expanding the text, but you also have a responsibility to the people. You need to give them the truth in a way that changes them, that, as he puts it, that you give them the truth in a way they can best hear it, in a way that it can most shape and phrase. You can shape and phrase it so that it comes home to them.

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Now, if this is the case, and I think it is, most of our teaching and most of our books on preaching and exposition are fairly unbalanced. Almost always, the books give almost all the time is dedicated to how do you expound the text, how do you understand the truth.

There might be a chapter on application or a chapter on preaching to the heart, but even though Alec Motyer rightly says you basically have two tasks, be true to the truth and be true to the people that are in front of you, we actually don’t spend that much time talking about how do you bring the truth home in a way that actually changes lives. It’s one of the reasons why an awful lot of our expository preaching isn’t very life-changing.

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