It’s Thursday but I Haven’t Started My Sermon Yet: A Case for Expository Preaching

Jan 18, 2016

I think a lot of preachers can relate to the title of this post. Maybe I’m assuming too much. Maybe I’m the only one to whom it applied. But I kind of doubt it.

But don’t overlook the subtitle and the obvious premise that expository preaching has as one of its benefits a corrective against procrastination of sermon preparation.

I realize that some consider the cure worse than the disease. Perhaps a better way to look at this is sustainable preaching, a method of preparing messages that is doable over the long haul.

Now the reasons against a case for expository preaching tend to follow this track: it’s dull, irrelevant to people, and disconnected to modern life and contemporary needs. Some who reject this methodology see it as too binding and restrictive.

I once heard Dr. Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, talk about the decline of expository preaching. I’m not sure that I’m even smart to summarize his talk but I think he gave two reasons for why preachers don’t like to preach expository messages anymore. First, the influence of pragmatism, whose mantra is “It’s all about results!” Preaching was adjusted based on usefulness. Second, the impact of personalism in that preaching was effected by consumerism and took as its starting place, felt needs, rather than the biblical text. “It’s all about me” is the unspoken mantra for personalism.

There are many different definitions of expository preaching but at the least we can say the following:

It seeks to “expose” what is in the text rather than “impose” one’s own thoughts on it. It covers larger blocks of Scripture, such as books or portions of books. It begins with the explanation of the text, then moves to application toward human need.

There are multiple reasons to adapt expository preaching as the preferred method.

First, it promotes a sustainable preaching ministry. When preaching through a book of the Bible, the text for next week’s sermon is evident. You begin where you left off. As simple as that sounds, it can be a massive protector against wasted time and creativity.

Next, It allows you to fulfill your role as an equipper of the church. As a preacher preaches from the fruit of his exegetical work with the text, his congregation will learn some sound Bible study skills.

Thirdly, It fosters greater balance in a preacher’s pulpit ministry, keeping him less susceptible to preferred topics and subjects. Every preacher has a particular behavioral style which inclines him to either portions or genres of Scripture. However, the perfection of holy Scripture extends to the actual inclusion and exclusion of bodies of content. There is a natural balance contained in the canon of Scripture and we will benefit from it if we preach systematically through it.

Finally, it allows the treatment of controversial subjects as they arise. One is forced to deal with the subject in an orderly fashion, instead of whenever the preacher desires it. Depending on the situation, the occurrence of that might be premature or delayed. A preaching ministry does not occur in a vacuum but rather a living context in which certain issues and conflicts arise. Misunderstanding take place. Congregants have accused their pastors with “you preached that sermon right at me!” even when that was not the case. If a preacher deals with a subject that addresses a church member’s sinfulness as a part of an exposition preaching ministry, he cannot be accused of deliberately targeting his or her sinful issue.

If you are an expository preacher, tell me why.