Why not a little different post?
I am preaching this Sunday at Cornerstone. In case you’ve never thought through the philosophy of you pastor’s preaching (yep, we all take an angle or were trained in one)… In case you attend church and just sit there wondering how peculiar it is that people weekly sit for 30 minutes to listen to someone talk (where else in our culture is that a voluntary thing anymore!?)… In case you wonder why some churches have a series on, say, the Gospel of Mark, while other churches seem to have series after series on something like: “10 ways to have a good marriage” or the “5 greatest needs of our culture” or whatever…
In case you wonder… I am committed to biblical expository preaching (exposing the Word of God – hopefully – with clarity in its context from the culture in which it was written into the culture in which we live and in which the Word of God still actively speaks by the Spirit). That means that I love and am committed to preaching through Books of the Bible so that their depth and magnitude and ‘package’ can impact God’s people and so teach people how to read Scripture rather than piecemealing it with this text this week and that text next week.
I find it releases pressure. It’s not about my choosing what to preach every week!
I have seen God work providentially through expositional preaching. What I mean is, I have seen a sermon series outlined over a 6 month period, and 4 months into the series, a given text on a Sunday spoke directly to an issue in the life of the church or an individual or community that could never have been anticipated 4 months earlier at the ‘mapping out of the series.’! And not only did the text impact that person’s moment of need – it could do so with all the background pieces of the book already having been examined and understood.
BUT all that is surface blessing and not the main reason. The reason for preaching expositionally -”exposingly” – is that it emphasizes that we trust God at his word – that his Word is powerful and transforming and that it still matters (every bit of it) today. Expositional preaching mandates that we preach the whole counsel of God. When we preach topically, we tend to skip passages that don’t seem to be relevant or are difficult. Or if we do series after series without going through a book, we find that we reference ‘favorite passages’ – aka prooftexts – and people in our church (if they aren’t reading Scripture on their own) can go years without reading from the first word to the last word of a book like Romans (which was originally meant to be read from first to last).
So, here is my quick philosophy (from the Workshop on Biblical Exposition and my training at TEDS in seminary):
ALL of Scripture is God breathed and useful… SO, I consider Scripture as the soundtrack of God’s story of his creative and redemptive love for us in Christ for his own glory and pleasure. Each book in the Bible is a song on the soundtrack. We would never presume to grasp the meaning of small snippets of the lyrics (i.e. the meaning of a few verses) if we don’t know what the song is about. SO – my goal in preaching is to preach whole songs at a time (book by book) so that people understand what the song is about as we study various lyrics (verse by verse) each week. Then the goal of it all is to show how the lyrics of the song contribute to the story of the soundtrack (the gospel)! And even though people link “expositional preaching” as being meat for maturing Christians and not so relevant to non-believers, I find that to tell the story in its context is exciting to nonbelievers who are discovering that their life-story can be – or perhaps is – a part of the divine metanarrative that sings like no other soundtrack!
I long for a church plant on the West side of the Lehigh Valley filled with weak and transparent believers (and interested non-believers) who sing the song of the gospel through being ‘exposed’ to the fulness of God in his Word – even through something so foolish as expositional (not excessively flashy but authentic) preaching. Even though I don’t preach regularly at Cornerstone right now, I am thankful to be able to preach in tandem with Pastor John expositionally. We are going through the Gospel of Mark right now. And as I stop blogging and prep for my sermon, here is my single goal: to preach the Word of God with its own authority in its context, getting my points from the text because I believe there is applicational power latent IN THE WORD - kingdom power that births saving faith (among the weak and dead in sin) and renews dependent faith (among the weak and progressively maturing) as the gospel is found from first to last in the Scriptures and not in the pastor’s creativity!
Charles Simeon has said it better, My endeavor is to bring out of Scripture what is there, and not to thrust in what I think might be there. I have a great jealousy on this head – never to speak more or less than I believe to be the mind of the Spirit in the passage I am expounding.
O God, I tremble to just let your Word speak. But speak. Please speak. You and you alone through the preaching of your Word.