Tim Keller

It is hard to overstate how ghettoized our preaching is. It is common to make all kinds of statements that appear persuasive to us but are based upon all sorts of premises that the secular person does not hold; it is common to use terms and phrases that mean nothing outside of our Christian subgroup. So avoid unnecessary theological or evangelical subculture jargon, and explain carefully the basic theological concept — confession of sin, praise, thanksgiving, and so on. In the preaching, show continual willingness to address the questions that the unbelieving heart will ask. Speak respectfully and sympathetically to people who have difficulty with Christianity. As you write the sermon, imagine a particular skeptical non-Christian in the chair listening to you. Add the necessary asides, the definitions, the extra explanations. Listen to everything said in the worship service with the ears of someone who has doubts or troubles with belief…

Speak regularly to ‘those of you who aren’t sure you believe this, or who aren’t sure just what you believe.’ Give them many asides, even employing the language of their hearts. Articulate their objections to Christian living and belief better than they can do it themselves. Express sincere sympathy for their difficulties, even when challenging them severely for their selfishness and unbelief. Admonish with tears (literally or figuratively). Always grant whatever degree of merit their objections have. It is extremely important that unbelievers feel you understand their objections: ‘I’ve tried it before and it did not work.’ ‘I don’t see how my life could be the result of the plan of a loving God.’ ‘Christianity is a straitjacket.’ ‘It can’t be wrong if it feels so right.’ ‘I could never keep it up.’ ‘I don’t feel worthy; I am too bad.’ ‘I just can’t believe.’

– Tim Keller