Tim Keller on What Makes a Sermon Bad, Good, or Great


The elders at my church recently gave each of us pastors a copy of Tim Keller’s Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism. I’m just one chapter in, but it promises to be fantastic (no surprise there). Early on, Keller describes the difference between bad, good, and great sermons:

“The difference between a bad sermon and a good sermon is largely located in the preachers — in their gifts and skills and in their preparation for any particular message. Understanding the biblical text, distilling a clear outline and theme, developing a persuasive argument, enriching it with poignant illustrations, metaphors, and practical examples, incisively analyzing heart motives and cultural assumptions, making specific application to real life — all of this takes extensive labor. To prepare a sermon like this requires hours of work, and to be able to craft and present it skillfully takes years of practice.

However, while the difference between a bad sermon and a good sermon is mainly the responsibility of the preacher, the difference between good preaching and great preaching lies mainly in the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the listener as well as the preacher…

…We should do the work it takes to make our communication of God’s truth good and leave it up to God how and how often he makes it great for the listener. ‘Should you seek great things for thyself? Do not seek them’ (Jeremiah 45:5).”

You can order Preaching by Tim Keller here.