Three Levels of Word Ministry

In his book Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism, Timothy Keller at once outlines three levels of the ministry of the Word in the Introduction of his work. The terms proclaiming, preaching, prophesying, Keller notes, “cannot mean that every believer was standing up and preaching sermons to audiences” (1).

Level 1: “Every Christian should be able to give both teaching (didaskalia, the ordinary word for instruction) and admonition (noutheo–a common word for strong, life-changing counsel) that convey to others the teachings of the Bible. This mus be done carefully, though informally, in conversations that are usually one on one. That is the most fundamental form of ministry of the Word” (2).

Level 2: “When we map [1 Peter 4:10-11] over Paul’s gift lists in Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, we see that there is a whole category of Word-ministry gifts that function in ways beside public preaching to the assembled Sunday congregation. It includes personal exhortation or counseling, evangelism, and teaching individuals and groups. . . . In this category of ministry, Christian men and women aren’t preaching per se; they prepare and present lessons and talks; they lead discussions in which they are presenting the Word of Christ”(3).

Level 3: “At the more formal end of the spectrum are sermons: the public preaching and exposition of the Bible to assembled gatherings. . . . Acts gives us so many of these public addresses that we could almost say that, from the point of view of Luke (the author), the development of the early Christian church and the development of its preaching were one and the same” (2).

My Youth Leader and I will be going through this book this Fall, and when our church begins a leadership training curriculum called ARBC Equip, this will feature in the preaching track.

Keller shows us that ordinary conversations, preaching in the assembly, but also structured times of outside of the assembly which are structured times of discipleship and ministry. These pieces need to be in place among the people of God. We must have a desire to teach and share, but also have a desire to be equipped for this task.

We are called to be led by the Word in order to lead others in the Word! Let’s make this a priority in our churches.


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