In chapter 14 of The Art and Craft of Biblical Preaching, Michael Quicke, while acknowledging the difficulty of classifying preachers and preaching types, suggests that a fourfold structure may be helpful. What follows draws on that chapter, but includes my own thoughts as well.
1. Teacher preachers aim to impart scriptural instruction. They stay close to the biblical text, and seek to explain it and apply it. They will often preach consecutively through a book of the Bible, taking one section (such as a paragraph) at a time. Examples of teacher preachers include John Stott, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Timothy Keller, and John MacArthur.
Teacher preachers seek to ground their hearers in the word of God, by giving systematic instruction that is theologically coherent. Such preaching, can, however, be over-intellectual, too focused on small details, and too ‘neat’ in structure and in doctrinal formulation. It may be relatively weak in emotional appeal and moral persuasiveness.
2. Herald preachers seek to proclaim God’s word with power. They are big-picture thinkers, and tend to present one or a few issues at a time and call for a holistic response. Some may be very effective evangelists. Examples include Martin Luther, Billy Graham, and Karl Barth.
3. Inductive preachers focus on their hearers’ needs. They ‘begin where people are’ and go back to Scripture for answers. ‘Seeker-sensitive’ preaching takes this approach, and may be evangelistic, apologetic, pastoral, or political. Examples include Brian MacLaren, Bill Hybels, and Rick Warren.
A strength of inductive preaching is that it strives for contemporary relevance. One danger is that the message may be defined too much by what hearers think (or are supposed to think) they need, and less by Scripture’s diagnosis of human need.
4. Narrative preachers understand the appeal and power of stories in communication. In doing so, they are following Scripture itself, which not only has a ‘grand narrative’, but also many smaller stories within it (think of the parables of Jesus, for example). Calvin Miller and Max Lucado might be regarded as representative narrative preacher. Additionally, many preachers in the Afro-American tradition also use story very effectively.
Of course, we do not have to prefer one preaching type and reject all the others. Each has both strengths and weaknesses, advantages and disadvantages, an appropriate use and an inappropriate use. Moreover, they can be used in combination. Take our Lord himself, for example: he emerged as a herald preacher, announcing that “Today this word has come true” (Lk 4:21), proclaiming the kingdom of God, and calling people to himself. But we see him too as a narrative preacher, with his parables being classic examples of this approach. Then, in Acts, we find Paul preaching inductively on Mars Hill, as he ‘begins where people are’ and takes them to where they need to be. And throughout the New Testament, not least in the snippets of ancient creeds that seem to be quoted from time to time, we see an attempt to teach the fundamental truths of the Christian faith (notice, too, the repeated reference in the later epistles to ‘the faith’ as including a body of truth that is to be known and believed).