Friday, May 30, 2008

Reading the Bible - Where Expository Preaching Begins

I remember clearly the statement by S. Lewis Johnson in one of our summer classes at Grace Theological Seminary: "Most problems of interpretation would be resolved if people would just slow down and read the Bible." Yes, I know that's from the "old days". But it is a practical statement that has served me well over the years.

When I'm asked, "What is the starting point for becoming an expository preacher?", this is my reply - "Read the Bible. Read the Bible a lot. Read it carefully and prayerfully." Now, of course, I'm assuming that I am speaking to someone who is born-again and has the right spiritual receptors in place - if you are not born-again, that is where you start. Assuming you are, though, and have a desire to be an expository preacher, "Read the Bible" !!!

Many of you probably have "Read Through The Bible In A Year" charts - some of you even have them printed in your Bible. If you are not doing at least that already, reading through the Bible this year might be a good place to start. If you read four chapters per day you will make it through in a year (actually in 305 days which lets you take a day off each week). If you "do the math" it is easy to see that eight chapters a day equals twice through in a year, twelve chapters equals three times, and sixteen chapters equals four times through in a year. I recommend that preachers strive for the sixteen chapters a day.

What should we look for as we read? Let me suggest a brief "starter list" . . .

(1) Observe the context.
(2) Ask basic questions - Who?, What?, When?, Where?, How?, Why?
(3) Look for the relationships between words and concepts in a passage.
(4) Compare and contrast various statements with other statements all over the Bible.
The Bible is a unity, and this is a spectacular sight to see. When you touch the
Bible at any point, the whole Book "wiggles". But be careful, too, because not
everything that immediately looks the same is identical (usually related though).
(5) Look for Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ, everywhere.
(6) Observe points of theology that exist in what you are reading.
(7) Note life applications that can be made from what you are reading. Often these
become future sermon titles or illustrations for what you are preaching now.

Please realize this list is not intended to replace your hermeneutical and subsequent exegetical work. This is a beginning. But, it is a really huge beginning. I am concerned that there are scholars, exegetes, professors, preachers, etc. who just do not regularly read their Bible. Some can talk a big talk about some point of relevance, or a doctrinal or exegetical conclusion, but they do not have the fragrance of Scripture (which is Christ) about them. Does this deal with how we preach? Well, meditate on Second Corinthians 2:14-17 and beyond, and I suspect you will see that it does. Make sure to relate verse 17 to what comes before it (the word "for" should make us do that).

So, here is my novel idea :-) . . . Read The Bible !!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Top Ten Benefits of Expository Preaching

10. Expository preaching demands that both the preacher and the congregation deal with the whole Bible. Some Bible portions will end up being neglected (often because of perceived difficulty or sense of irrelevance) unless there is a systematic intent to preach through every book of the Bible. When I preached through Leviticus several years ago, it was the first time anyone in our church had ever heard an exposition of that entire Book, even though some had attended "Bible-teaching" churches for over eighty years!

9. The pastor cannot only forecast where the preaching calendar is headed (this minimizes Saturday night panic, and also helps musicians and other worship participants to know how to plan), but he can personally live in the text for months and encourage the whole church to do the same.

8. Every human need or topic will eventually be covered in the course of preaching through books of the Bible. If you only preach topically, you will miss a lot of topics.

7. The congregation receives a vast collection of Biblical truth to compare and contrast, that is with which to do theology. Statements can be made like, "Remember in Exodus we saw this", or "In Romans we saw this", etc. But if you have not preached through those books you cannot build upon them with your congregation. Preaching based on creeds, lectionaries, hot topics, etc. will not produce this vast collection.

6. The congregation gets to have a Biblical benchmark to measure growth and significant events. For example, "I was saved while we were in Matthew", or "My family started coming when we were in Acts", or "Our marriage was saved while we were in First Peter". Maybe no one but me thinks this is exciting, but I find it a thrilling way to measure life and ministry.

5. Everyone can see how God moves personal or world events to match what the preacher is preaching from the Word, rather than the preacher trying to manipulate sermon topics in order to be relevant. I was preaching through Acts when the 9/11 disaster happened. We were all amazed at how the message for the next Sunday was totally matched to the times, even though everyone knew the passage was assigned sequentially from Acts months ahead. This displays God at work in the life of the Church. People are amazed that "That sermon was just for me" even though the passage was announce months ahead. No one can accuse the preacher, this way, of choosing sermon material to personally pick on them. By the way, preachers, have you noticed how whenever you think a certain sermon would be very good for a certain person, inevitably that person is not there that Sunday?

4. Preaching through the Bible keeps passages in context. This guards against improper forms of "proof-texting", misinterpretation, and the imposition of the preacher's pet points.

3. The Bible is eternal truth. The eternal is always relevant. The selection of particular Bible verses or concepts to attempt to be relevant will cause one's preaching to become time-bound instead of eternal. Therefore, the quest for relevance in preaching tends to make the preaching irrelevant (at least fairly quickly).

2. God gets the glory, because the preaching was the proclamation of His truth. When someone says to the preacher, "Good sermon!", the preacher need not be set up for temptation to pride. All the preacher needs to do is respond, "The Word of God!", to which we all say, "Thanks be to God!". The message was not about the preacher's brilliance or eloquence, but rather the faithful proclamation of the Word for the Glory of God alone.

1. Expository preaching is the essential, high act of worship in the assembled church. It is commanded: First Timothy 4:13, "Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching." Second Timothy 4:2, "Preach the Word"!! Without Biblical exposition, the church has not worshipped. The message is an offering by both the preacher and the hearers to God. It is an offering of obedience and the sacrifice of praise. Other details of worship (giving, music, prayers, etc.) are not worship unless they flow to and from the proclamation of the Word.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Exposition of Exposition

While I'm still working on encouraging systematic, expository preaching, I thought it might be time for a commercial. Dan Kreider has been doing a great job helping with this blog, but he has also been helping us with our church's website. There are two features on the website that I am really happy about. One is our values page The other is our messages section, and especially our current series on Hebrews Check them out, hold me accountable, see if I "preach what I practice"!!