4 Types of Non-Expositional Preaching

preachingWhen you walk into any given church on any given Sunday there will come a point in the service when a man will stand in a pulpit or on a stage and begin to speak for anywhere from 20-60 minutes. Preachers preach differently. While nearly all of them will carry a Bible on stage with them, the way the message is presented differs.
If you want to know how your preacher preaches, take a look at the sermons he has preached thus far this year. More than likely, a preacher’s manner of preaching can be determined by looking at his sermons and sermon series over the course of a few months. It truly matters how a preacher preaches. I am not talking about what he wears, whether he paces up and down the aisles or sits on a stool, or how loud he preaches. Delivery style is not in mind here. I am referring to the manner in which the preacher presents the message of the Bible.

While I believe expository preaching is the only type of preaching that is valid for weekly preaching, there are other types of preaching that fill many churches each week. For those who do not preach expositionally, there are generally four major ways that they preach.

1. Anecdotal Preaching

The first type of preaching is anecdotal. An anecdotal sermon is a sermon in which the preacher primarily tells engaging stories with a moral lesson. While many preachers make use of anecdotes as an attention grabber to begin their sermons, an anecdotal sermon is filled with anecdotes. The preacher rarely gets around to a text of Scripture. These types of sermons are sadly very popular. People love stories and pastors who want to keep an audience roaring in laughter or crying from an inspirational story will attempt to motivate their audience with anecdote after anecdote after anecdote.

The best possible result from this type of preaching is moralism. People will leave the service wanting to be a better person and will take to social media to share the clever anecdotes and cute phrases from the sermon. People will go away from such a sermon entertained, but they will not have been fed from the Word of God. The big problem with anecdotal sermons is that they lack the sanctifying and transforming power people need to grow in Christ. If a preacher preaches anecdotally, he will ultimately fail to sanctify God’s people in truth (John 17:17).

2. Biographical Preaching

The second type of preaching is biographical. A biographical sermon is a sermon in which the preacher traces the life of a biblical character and draws contemporary moral implications. It is somewhat common for pastors to take a month or two out of the year to preach through the lives of men like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Paul, etc. There is nothing inherently wrong with this type of preaching. There are many examples that we can draw from the lives of biblical characters. Seeing how David repented or how Paul risked his life for the sake of the gospel can be very edifying.

However, if the most these sermons do is call for moral improvement or behavior modification based on how biblical characters lived their lives, they fall short of the message of Christianity. The danger in preaching many biographical sermons is that it is easy to make points based on the lives of biblical characters totally out of context. Preachers who preach through the life of David, for example, fail to take in the surrounding context.

3. Topical Preaching

The third type of preaching is topical. A topical sermon is a sermon that has a topic in mind prior to consulting the text, and then searches for one or more biblical texts that addresses the topic chosen beforehand. This is quite possibly the most common type of preaching permeating American churches. A pastor thinks through a variety of topics he thinks would benefit his congregation, and then chooses one. From this point, he enters Scripture to find passages that support his topic. For example, a pastor may preach a sermon series on the family. He will take four weeks or so to address the family from four or five different passages. Topical preachers jump around the Bible throughout a given sermon series.

The danger in topical preaching is that the pastor’s mind or the congregation’s circumstances are ultimate while Scripture is nothing more than a helpful resource. The preacher is never surprised or challenged by a text of Scripture. He simply ends up studying and preaching his favorite topics. The text of Scripture does not set the agenda, so the text could easily be manipulated. When a preacher preaches topically, he can easily avoid passages that are difficult to understand. What’s worse, the congregation can never grow past the knowledge or maturity level of the preacher. If a preacher does not regularly preach expositionally, he will never preach more than he already knows. The church will slowly be conformed to the preacher’s mind, rather than to God’s mind.

There are certain circumstances when topical sermons are appropriate. For example, it may be necessary to preach on a certain topic when asked to preach at a conference, chapel service, or a special church event. A topical sermon can be expositional, insofar as it uses texts carefully and well, but the preacher must be careful since the point of the sermon was determined before the text of Scripture was consulted.

4. Textual Preaching

The fourth type of preaching is textual. A textual sermon is a sermon that refers often to a particular biblical text, but does not take the main point of the text as its own. Like topical preaching, this is a very popular type of preaching. Textual sermons look something like this: A preacher might have you turn to a particular passage and he might read verses from that passage, but then you might as well close your Bible and put it away. The main sermon idea in textual sermons does not come from the text. The biggest danger in this type of preaching is that the preacher can easily distort the message of the very text he has read, most commonly by placing his own ideas onto the text.

Preaching for Heart Change

Expository preaching is neglected by many in favor of these alternative methods. I think this is partly because expository preaching requires a tremendous amount of work. Expositional sermons take the point of the text as the point of the sermon. As I argued in my post yesterday, expository preaching requires diligent exegesis in order to dig for the meaning of the text as intended by the original authors. If one is to preach expositionally, one cannot just open his Bible on Sunday morning and throw an outline together.

Preachers must not allow the fear of the daunting task of expository preaching to scare them into other types of preaching that fail to expose what God has revealed. In preaching we are after soul transformation, not moralism. Heart change occurs when the man of God preaches the Word of God as it was intended by God. Expository preaching does this. Many of these other methods do not. Preachers, desire heart change that comes through the proclamation of the Word of God.

Beware of saying, ‘[Expository preaching] doesn’t work,’ and then turning to other techniques and leaving behind God’s way of changing people. You may be able to change people with ways and means different from this process of seeing the glory of the Lord in the Word of God, but will it be a change that magnifies the glory of Christ? Not all change honors Christ. Paul sounds this warning with the words at the beginning of 2 Corinthians 4:3, ‘And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing.’ In other words, he admits that his gospel does not change everyone…Paul does not change his strategy because of this. Neither should we (from John Piper’s sermon at Together for the Gospel 2006)


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

Advertisements

The Connection Between Biblical Inerrancy and Expository Preaching

preach-word
One thing I have committed myself to during my time at Boyce College is to learn the practice of expository preaching. There is hardly avoiding the fact that all young preachers preach bad sermons, especially early on. As Tim Keller once said, “It doesn’t matter what you do, your first 200 sermons will be terrible.” All preachers can only truly learn how to preach through practice. However, filling one’s mind and heart with biblically and historically faithful way of preaching prepares the student to preach bad sermons in the right way.

In preparing to become a faithful expositor, I have benefited mostly from reading books on the nature and practice of expository preaching. Rediscovering Expository Preaching: Balancing the Science and Art of Biblical Exposition is one of the most significant books in print on expository preaching. If you have no clue what expository preaching is; if you are a preacher considering preaching expositionally; or even if you already preach expositionally, Rediscovering Expository Preaching is a great resource.

John MacArthur and other faculty members of The Master’s Seminary combined to produce an invaluable resource for preachers in the early 1990’s and is still benefiting preachers today.

There is one chapter in Rediscovering Expository Preaching that I want to briefly discuss to give you both a feel for the book and some points for reflection on a crucial aspect of expository preaching.

The Mandate of Biblical Inerrancy

John MacArthur wrote the second chapter, which is entitled, The Mandate of Biblical Inerrancy.

In this chapter, MacArthur examines expository preaching in light of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. Essentially, MacArthur’s main point is that expository preaching is the practical overflow of biblical inerrancy. Or, as he puts it, biblical inerrancy “demands” expository preaching. MacArthur shows that the spiritual health of Christians and churches is dependent upon biblical inerrancy expressed in expository preaching. MacArthur states his thesis early on:

The only logical response to inerrant Scripture, then, is to preach it expositionally. By expositionally, I mean preaching in such a way that the meaning of the Bible passage is presented entirely and exactly as it was intended by God (23-24).

It is through this definition of expository preaching that MacArthur shows a direct connection to the inerrancy of Scripture.

MacArthur argues that for inerrantists, there really is no other way to preach outside of expository preaching. On the other hand, if one believes the Bible is errant, then it would be foolish to preach the Bible expositionally. MacArthur ends up going further by arguing that preaching the Bible at all is meaningless if Scripture is not inerrant. Because of this intrinsic connection between biblical inerrancy and expository preaching, MacArthur goes through various points to show how the preacher can present the Bible “entirely and exactly as it was intended by God.”

From here, MacArthur breaks down the manner in which expository preaching can practically be carried out—exegesis. He defines exegesis as,

[T]he skillful application of sound hermeneutical principles to be the biblical text in the original language with a view to understanding and declaring the author’s intended meaning both to the immediate and subsequent audiences (29).

In order to preach expositionally, the preacher will need to make use of the hermeneutical principle of exegesis. The doctrine of inerrancy and the commitment to preach expositionally necessitates the use of exegesis. Finally, MacArthur gives a brief look at opposition to expositional preaching, which is found in theological liberalism’s denial of inerrancy.

This chapter is a necessary foundational look at expository preaching and its place in evangelical churches. I was personally challenged by this chapter to view expository preaching not as an option among many, but rather as the only appropriate way to preach. In fact, the only way to truly preach the word of God is to preach expositionally. MacArthur’s passion for inerrancy and preaching shines through in this chapter. He makes a strong claim that pierces the hearts of many pastors, but for those who believe in biblical inerrancy, there is no arguing against his arguments.

The mandate of the pastor is to preach the word (2 Tim. 4:1-2). In order to preach the divinely inspired word of God, the pastor must preach entirely and exactly what God has intended. MacArthur is clear in his definition and explanation of expository preaching. Exegesis requires diligent work, but all efforts will prove fruitful, because at the end of the day the pastor will be able to leave the pulpit knowing he preached a message from the Lord.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

Morning Mashup 09/01

coffee-newspaper
We are kicking off September and Labor Day with a new edition of Morning Mashup. If you are like my wife and have today off from work, rest up! While you’re at it, grab a cup of coffee and read some (or all) of these excellent articles!

Victoria Osteen and Our Conservative Prosperity Gospel – Attention has recently been given to the blatant health and wealth gospel of the Osteens with the hilarious video of Bill Cosby responding to a ludicrous statement made by Victoria Osteen. However, Daniel Darling of the ERLC warns us to be cautious in our laughter, as we “offer a subtler version of the prosperity message in the way we talk about sanctification in this life.”

The Education of the Hobbits in The Lord of the Rings – Ok, ok, time to play my nerd card. I found this essay fascinating. If you are a Tolkien fanatic like I have become, you will greatly enjoy this piece.

Kentucky Baptist Convention to Recruit Foster Families – Stories like this make me proud to be a Kentucky Baptist.

Justice and Privilege – If you are white and are uncomfortable with the situation in Ferguson, this is one article you do not need to miss. Darrin Patrick gives an important challenge for all white Christians to consider.

A Novel Every Christian Should Consider Reading – Biblical counselor David Powlison recommends a unique work of fiction that he believes can awaken the soul to a more fully developed sense of worship.

Books on the Cross of Christ – While we are on the subject of books, I will commend this list compiled by Ligon Duncan. It is perhaps the most comprehensive list of books on the atonement that I have ever seen. Many of these books, the ones I have yet to read, have already made their way into my Amazon shopping cart.

7 Presuppositions for Faithful Christ-Centered Expository Preaching – David Prince on preaching is always a gem. Short. Profound. Helpful.

The Enduring Effects of Adam’s Transgression On Race Relations in Ferguson and Beyond – Jarvis Williams who is a professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary writes, “I am not in the least surprised by this sad event or by the series of subsequent events that have emerged in the aftermath of Brown’s death.” Read the article to find out why.

Lay Aside the Weight of Self-Indulgence – I am always so blessed by Jon Bloom’s writing and this article is no exception. He writes, “Self-indulgence is spiritually dangerous to us because it’s a form of idolatry. It’s something we turn to instead of God for happiness.”

Faith-Hacking: Managing Your Kids Screen Time – Tim Challies seeks an answer to the following questions: “How do you motivate your kids to pick up a book or go outside? How do you govern screen time without it collapsing into constant bickering?”

What My African-American Sons Taught Me About Race in America – Jeremy Haskins gives a different perspective on racial tension, Ferguson, and the gospel in this open and honest article.

The eternal contribution of Jesus has changed the course of manhood forever. –Eric Mason