Today, I am beginning a new series on the subject of preaching. In a rapidly fast paced culture, the church is often tempted to be swept down the raging rivers of modernity. It is essential that preachers and congregations have a firm commitment upon the Word of God and the preaching of the good news of Jesus Christ. True Christian preaching always seeks to make the main point of the text the main point of the sermon preached.
Expository preaching is the type of Christian preaching that begins with the text and moves through various different stages before finally being delivered to the people. The goal of expository preaching is to minimize the preacher’s opinion while placing a spotlight upon the truth of the inspired Word. The method of exposition examines the passage within the context of the culture, the historical surroundings, and the grammar usage of the author. Authorial intent is a vital issue within the realm of expository preaching that should guide the interpretation of a text.
This series will cover the following format:
- Introduction – Preaching Still Matters
- The Priority of Scripture in the Life of Israel
- The Priority of Scripture in the Life of the Early Church
- Conclusion – Preaching Still Matters
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Problem of Preaching in the
Life of the Modern Church
True Christian preaching must be recovered. The glory of God and doctrinal depth must once again be central to the pulpit ministry. Unfortunately, that has been replaced in our culture with models of preaching that seem more attractive to the audience and sub-church culture, while remaining easy to package through marketing and social media networks. Mark Dever rightly states, “A church in which there is expositional preaching will be a church that is encouraging Christian growth – as we listen to God speaking from His Word into our lives.”1 No matter how fancy the scheme or how attractive the package, if the Bible is not being fully explained on a regular basis to the people, something other than faithful Bible preaching is taking place.
The Church’s Preoccupation with
Unhealthy Church Growth Models
Today, in our modern church culture, the priority of preaching has been replaced with church growth trends. While this is not the case with every church, it is the common practice of our day. Steve Lawson, in his book, Famine in the Land, describes this serious problem:
A new way of “doing” church is emerging. In this radical paradigm shift, exposition is being replaced with entertainment, preaching with performances, doctrine with drama, and theology with theatrics. The pulpit, once the focal point of the church, is now being overshadowed by a variety of church-growth techniques, everything from trendy worship styles to glitzy presentations and vaudeville-like pageantries. In seeking to capture the upper hand in church growth, a new wave of pastors is reinventing church and repackaging the gospel into a product to be sold to “consumers.”2
While we may not be living in 1954, when the Southern Baptist Convention promoted a campaign of church growth under the banner, “A Million More in ’54,” but the church has become extremely focused on packaging ministries into a neatly wrapped gift to the community rather than remaining focused on the exposition and explanation of Scripture. In 2010, Andy Stanley spoke at the SBC Pastors’ Conference. In his message, he constantly repeated these words, “If you make your church better, they will come and make your church bigger.” While much of his point was to pursue excellence in all areas of ministry, the overall flavor of the sermon was geared to a “seeker sensitive” approach. Long before the church worries about the peripheral issues of our ministry packaging, we must put a heavy concentration upon the exposition and application of the Bible. People need to hear from God before they are overwhelmed with how organized our signage is or how fancy our technology team has become.
Rather than making people feel “welcomed” or “good” in their present state of sinfulness, the church must return to the centrality of preaching in order to properly diagnose and deal with man’s problem. “The business of the Church, and the business of preaching – and she alone can do this – is to isolate the radical problems and to deal with them in a radical manner.”3 Although from an outside glance, these days seem profitable and successful for the evangelical world. The church culture boasts of large mega-church facilities residing in former NBA arenas and enormous book publishing sales. However, these factors should not be the measuring stick of health and vitality. The fact is, our present evangelical condition is weak, biblically illiterate, and spiritually shallow. As in the days of Nehemiah, Amos, and the Reformers – we need the Bible.
The Broken Models of Biblical Preaching
Ligon Duncan describes expository preaching as “the faithful explanation and application of the Bible.”4 Since preachers are called by God to “feed the sheep” and those sheep have been entrusted to our care, it is essential for us as preachers to choose a model where we communicate a “biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of a passage in its context.”5 The New Testament is filled with Scripture that address the subject of preaching and the need to rightly divide the Word of God. The preaching models that are often serving local churches in our present day evangelical landscape are more like broken cisterns and wells without water.
Topical preaching begins with a subject and then seeks to find support from the Bible. As the topical sermon is developed, random verses of Scripture are used as a proof text to the preacher’s sermon title. The danger in this approach is that when passages of Scripture are isolated out of their context, there is a much higher risk of faulty interpretation and application. Expository preaching is not free from such dangers, but the reality is, topical preaching is much more prone to loose interpretations. John Broadus warns of the dangers of topical preaching by suggesting that the preacher may be “tempted to think more of his ideas and his sermons than of ‘rightly dividing the word of truth’ and leading people into the Kingdom of God.6
While topical preaching may be packaged well and marketed to the culture, it falls far short of the intent of the human author, which is directed by the Holy Spirit. Although there may be a need to present a doctrinal sermon by using this approach, it should be limited to a rare circumstance. Walter Kaiser writes, “So strong is this writer’s aversion to the methodological abuse he has repeatedly witnessed – especially in topical messages – that he has been advising his students for some years now to preach a topical sermon only once every five years – and then immediately to repent and ask God’s forgiveness!”7
Other preaching styles exist that offer attractive means of presenting the truth of the Bible. Such models include, biographical, textual, doctrinal, and thematic preaching. These models offer different ways of presenting the truths of Scripture, but unlike expository preaching, these models can often lead to confusion, misapplication, and religious entertainment. The goal of the preacher is not performance nor should the goal of the congregation be focused on their own fleshly desires. Preachers should not preach for applause and congregations should not seek out preaching as a means of entertainment. The goal of the preacher should be to present the truths of Scripture in order to instruct, correct, rebuke, and encourage the congregation through God’s appointed means – the Word of Truth.
God – send us a reformation of biblical preaching!
Pastor Josh Buice
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972), 32. Lloyd-Jones also pointed out that the Church is not in competition with other agencies of our culture. He writes, “The Church is a special and a specialist institution and this is a work that she alone can perform.”