It is easy to preach a sermon to the mind, to the will, or even to the emotions of our listeners. Information feeds the mind, pressure pounds on the will, vivid emotive illustrations can stir the emotions. Yet what does it take to reach the heart? How can we preach to the core of our people?
According to Tim Keller, there are two key ingredients, no three.
1. Imagination is critical. On its own imagination in preaching will only hit the emotions. Yet good preaching requires vivid imagination.
2. Reasoned logic is critical. On its own reasoned logic in preaching will only hit the mind. Yet good preaching requires reasonable logic and orderly thought.
Two exemplary preachers for Keller are Jonathan Edwards and C.S. Lewis. Both preached sermons shot through with logic, but plunged in imagination. No temperament will naturally do both, but by God’s grace we must. And that leads to ingredient number three:
3. The gospel is critical. On its own, the human heart will default to legalism and religion, or license and irreligion. Keller is right when he warns us not to preach religion as opposed to irreligion, but the gospel as opposed to either of them. Good preaching requires us to present the glorious gospel, so that hearts are drawn by the powerful attraction of Christ and the grace of God. As it was stated centuries ago – “affection is only overcome by greater affection.” Thus, the grace of God can stir the heart from its other loves. Nothing else will do.