I am a pastor. Frequently, I stand up before a group of people and proclaim the Word of God. My views on preaching are different today than they were ten years ago when I began to proclaim the Word of God. When I started to preach, I relied on my intellect, wit, humor, and passion as a crutch. Weekly, I would scramble to figure out what I would say when I stood up to preach. Often (and I’m not proud of this), I would look to other preachers to get ideas for what to say. My, how God is patient, gracious, and kind! When I would embark on sermon prep for the week, I would think of something I wanted to say, find a text that “fit” my thoughts, and get to work. I didn’t realize it then, but I used the Word of God as a supplement to my thoughts—how times have changed!
I no longer follow this “model” of preaching; instead, I am an expositional preacher. And (in my humble opinion), expositional preaching is the best “method” of proclaiming God’s Word. In the remaining paragraphs, I want to make my case as to why I believe expositional preaching is the best method of preaching.
What Is Expository Preaching?
To begin, we must understand what expositional preaching is. Simply stated, expositional preaching takes the point of a particular passage of Scripture and makes it the sermon’s focus. Mark Dever says that “expositional preaching is preaching in service to the Word of God.” Instead of making the Word submit to the preacher’s thoughts and desires, expositional preaching yields the preacher’s thoughts and desires to the Word of God. Although I still struggle in sermon prep, I no longer scramble to find what to say, only how to say it.
Preacher, if you want to love your people well, you’ll preach the Word of God rightly
Why is Expositional Preaching Important?
First, the Word of God is a book written by specific people, to a particular people, at a specific time, for a specific purpose. The writers of Scripture had a reason for writing what they did. Preachers do not have a license to twist Scripture to say what they want it to say. The Bible is God’s Word. He is its chief author. He inspired man to say what He wanted to communicate. Therefore, my job is to say what God says. Here’s the beautiful reality: The Word of God is God’s Word and therefore always relevant. He does not change. He remains the same. Truth does not change. So, I never have to worry if what I’m preaching will resonate with its hearers. As God spoke through Isaiah the prophet, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God will stand forever (Is. 40:8).”
Second, God’s Word is the ordained means by which He gives life to His people (see Gen. 12; Ex. 3:4; Ex. 20; Ezekiel 37:1-10; Acts 2; Rom. 10:17; Deut. 17:18-20; Ps. 1:2; 2 Chr. 34; Neh. 8:8). Also, God ordained His Word to sanctify His people. Man is not to live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. What did Jesus pray in His High Priestly prayer? He prayed “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth (John 17:17).” Preacher, if you want to love your people well, you’ll preach the Word of God rightly. How do I know this? Christ loves His church. We know that because Paul says, “He gave himself up for her (Eph. 5:25).” Christ sanctifies His church. How? Paul says, “by the washing of water with the word (v.27).”
We cannot detach a text from its context, and think we’re doing a good job
Because the Word of God is the ordained means of bringing life, the right preaching of God’s Word is the single most important aspect of a church’s growth and health. I can’t tell you how encouraging it is to see the growth through the simple means of preaching. I’m not just talking about numerical growth, either. My primary focus is the spiritual growth of the saints. Since it is, my main priority is preaching/teaching the Word of God faithfully. Pastor, if you want to see your church grow spiritually, devote yourself to the simple proclamation of God’s Word, and watch Him work.
As a member of the local church, you are also responsible for what is being proclaimed from the pulpit
What about Topical Preaching?
Is it wrong for a pastor to preach topically? Not necessarily. You can preach topically and expositionally at the same time. The Bible is filled with topics. However, you must preach the text within its proper context. It’s easy to twist Scripture to say what we want it to say. But again, the Bible is written by a people, to a people, at a specific time, for a specific purpose. Yes, it has applications for today. However, we cannot detach a text from its context, and think we’re doing a good job. The Bible was not written in 2022. We must remember that. Topical preaching is not my favorite method, but it can be done well, but only if, the focus of the sermon, is the focus of the text.
A Word for Church Members
Friend, if you are a member of a church with a preacher that devotes Himself to faithfully preaching the Word of God weekly, rejoice. Praise God for that man! He is a blessing for you. Thank God that He has given you a man who desires to stand up on Sunday mornings and preach/teach you God’s Word. Because again, the Word is the primary means of your sanctification.
But you have a responsibility, also. As a member of the body of Christ, your task is to hold your pastors accountable. Our job as pastors, is to faithfully shepherd the sheep. We do that primarily through our preaching. Paul, writing to Timothy says that the church (household of God) is a “pillar and buttress of truth (1 Tim. 3:15).” Therefore, you have a responsibility to be in the Word of God also. How will you know if you’re being deceived if you’re not reading God’s Word? I encourage you to be like the Bereans (Acts 17). After receiving the Word of God, we read that they examined the scriptures daily to see if things were so (v.11). As a member of the local church, you are also responsible for what is being proclaimed from the pulpit.
If you have a pastor that faithfully teaches God’s Word, encourage him. Thank him. You have no idea how encouraging it is to hear that you appreciate faithful preaching. Your encouragement goes a long way. If your pastor preaches a text unfaithfully, confront him (gently, of course). Ask him how he came to the point(s) that he did. Ask him how he prepares to preach. Pray for him. Give him grace. Gift him with resources (Charles Simeon Trust online workshops are a great gift. So is Preach: Theology Meets Practice by Mark Dever).
May God be glorified through the preaching of His Word!
Resources for Pastors/Preachers
- Charles Simeon Trust online workshops
- Preach: Theology Meets Practice by Mark Dever
- Expositional Preaching: How We Speak God’s Word Today by David Helm
- Preaching & Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
- Recapturing the Voice of God: Shaping Sermons Like Scripture by Steven Smith
- Preaching for the Rest of Us: Essentials for Text-Driven Preaching by Robby Gallaty & Steven Smith
Soli Deo Gloria,