How John Frame and Tim Keller can Kill Your Ministry

Posted: August 25, 2010 in Uncategorized

On any given Sunday, many people in the pews of your church almost didn’t show up. 

Some don’t feel worthy of darkening the door of a church while others just don’t feel like it is worth it.

Many who do show up these days are confronted by a preacher quoting long lines from John Frame’s The Doctrine of God or some post-modern feminist author that Tim Keller cited in a recent sermon.  The preacher found these items to be groundbreaking, so he is disheartened when he looks out at the congregation to blank stares. 

I travel a lot and meet quite a few ministers, especially young, restless and reformed ones, who devour thick works of Reformed scholarship and listen endlessly to sermons or lectures by the likes of Keller, John Piper and R.C. Sproul.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with it but after ingesting these materials they then simply vomit them out (to use a term Jesus uses in the Book of Revelation). 

Here is a newsflash for pastors like me who read 100 or so books a year and cram their iPod with lectures from The Resurgence and Desiring God…we’re dorks. 

Nothing personal and notice I said, “we.”  But we are raging geeks!  And when was the last time a neo-maxie zoom dweebie (to deftly use an ’80’s pop culture reference), held the attention of a large audience for any amount of time? Exactly. 

Now you may object that Mark Driscoll has built a very large church on preaching hour-plus seminary style lectures and Keller & Piper are big pimping as well, so what’s wrong it?

First of all, you ain’t them.  Second, even if you possessed all of their gifts, in all likelihood, you are in a very different setting.

Remember that Piper, Keller, Driscoll, etc. are in very well-educated areas with highly cultured people…are you?

I preach to dozens of people in various stages of recovery from substance abuse, college students, tweens and blue-collar workers in a midwestern town.  John Frame and R.C. Sproul may be meeting me where I am but they don’t always help me meet the people God has entrusted to me where they are.

In order to know how to preach to the people in front of me every Sunday, I need to spend time with them listening carefully to understand who they are and where they are spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, etc.

Now, hear me before you post a nasty comment that I’ll delete…I am all for pastors reading Salvation Belongs to the Lord and subscribing to Redeemer’s sermon store.  If you are a pastor then it will feed your soul and you need it because you probably are too stressed or distracted to be fed at your own church! 

But do you know why there are so many Reformed church plants with well-read pastors that fail or never grow beyond a handful of families while churches with shallow preaching and worship grow? The former are talking over many people’s heads and the latter are not.

Balance is crucial.   

I don’t know what I’d do without thick volumes of theology from Banner of Truth but I do know what they would do to the people in my church…put them to sleep.

Remember, many of the people who show up to hear you preach almost didn’t come.

  1. Bumble says:

    Not bad, not bad advice at all… There’s a lot of contextualization (Keller’s word) we need to learn… In my neck of the wood, there’s a whole school of ministry who study Chuck Smith sermons on the entire Bible. The Resurgent gang is the same way in certain extent, as you said… But if you study more than Keller’s sermon, you can see how he also used a lot of “shallow church’s” methodology as well.

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