Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What Expository Preaching is Not

About a year before becoming a student at Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, I picked up a book edited by John MacArthur entitled Rediscovering Expository Preaching: Balancing the Science and Art of Biblical Exposition. I bought the book because it was a preaching book from John MacArthur - pure and simple. I had no idea what "expository" meant and looking back I realize that this seasoned book was my first exposure to expository preaching.

Today, I am primarily an expository preacher.

In the first chapter, Richard Mayhue defines what expository preaching is and is not.

First, what expository is not:
1. It is not a commentary running from word to word and verse to verse without unity, outline, and pervasive drive.

2. It is not rambling comments and offhand remarks about a passage without a background of thorough exegesis and logical order.

3. It is not a mass of disconnected suggestions and inferences based on the surface meaning of a passage but not sustained by a depth-and-breadth study of the text.

4. It is not pure exegesis, no matter how scholarly, if it lacks a theme, thesis, outline, and development.

5. It is not a mere structural outline of a passage with a few supporting comments but without other rhetorical and sermonic elements.

6. It is not a topical homily using scattered parts of the passage but omitting discussion of other equally important parts.

7. It is not chopped-up collection of grammatical findings and quotations from commentaries without a fusing of these elements into a smooth, flowing, interesting, and compelling message.

8. It is not a Sunday-school-lesson type of discussion that has an outline of the contents, informality, and fervency but lacks sermonic structure and rhetorical ingredients.

9. It is not a Bible reading that links a number of scattered passages treating a common theme but fails to handle any of them in a thorough grammatical, and contextual manner.

10. It is not the ordinary devotional or prayer-meeting talk that combines running commentary, rambling remarks, disconnected suggestions, and personal reactions into a semi-inspiration discussion but lacks the benefit of the basic exegetical-contextual study and persuasive elements. (10)
I will add only slightly to this list.

First, expository preaching is not a sermon on what I think about the text. Expository preaching forces the preacher to take the text seriously. If at any point you contemplate on what the text "might mean to me" then you are doing it wrong. The sermon is not the place for personal preference or opinion.

Secondly, expository preaching is not a lecture on the hermeneutics of a text without a clear application of the text. This is the opposite extreme of the previous point. Many young ministers listen to pastors like John MacArthur and Martin Lloyd-Jones and are under the delusion that great preaching ignores practical application. Every sermon should be about Jesus and therefore it should convict the heart and transform the lives of those humbly listening. Exegesis without application is not proper exposition.

Thirdly, expository preaching is not the only type of preaching one should explore. I consider myself an expositor but that does not mean I bounce from one book to another throughout my ministry or try to spend more time in a given book than all of my expository preaching friends. Just because you spent three weeks more in Colossians than the next guy doesn't mean your a better preacher.

Furthermore, we ought to take advantage of other type of sermons including, but not limited to, doctrinal preaching, social engagement preaching, stand alone sermons, holiday and special occasion sermons, and even the occasional topical sermon.
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