Not long ago I was contacted by a friend who is a denominational leader. He is tasked with raising up the next generation of pastoral leaders in his denomination. He had one question: Is expository preaching biblical?
To some the question may seem alarming—after all the heart of expository preaching is to be biblical. So to ask the question is to strike at the essence of the very thing itself. Yet from another angle the question may be viewed as welcome and helpful—for shouldn’t we be asking that about everything we do in pastoral ministry?
So I responded to his query . . . at length. I thought it might be helpful to others if I shared my response here. It is, as I mentioned, long. So I’ll break it up into several posts. I’ll clean up any grammar issues from the original, but otherwise I’ll leave it as presented. I hope you find it helpful.
You raise a number of questions, but seem to settle on one: “Is expository preaching biblical?”
You’ve asked for my opinion, and so I’ll simply say in reply, “Yes.”
Some opine that “expository” preaching (or, in some folk’s minds, preaching of any kind) as a part of Christian worship is a dated, left-over relic from the Reformation, an antiquated practice that may not have much validity as we strive to “move in the apostolic” in our ministries today.
I wonder, however, if we might find, upon closer examination, that expository preaching was not invented by the Reformers, but recovered by them. It was, after all, a re-formation of the church around the apostolic necessities … a rediscovery of that which is essential and had been lost.
First, a word about the term “expository” preaching. It is just that, a term. At one time it probably meant something fairly clear, but like so many of our terms (e.g., “evangelical”) it became over time weighted down with so many divergent notions that it has become almost useless in actually describing anything.
I like the notion of “text-driven” preaching. The text of Scripture drives the sermon, not the preacher’s internal feelings/leadings/nudges/notions, not the trends of the day, etc., etc., etc. That doesn’t negate the need to exegete the culture and our particular audience. It simply says that the preaching act itself ought to be an act in which the proclaimer submits himself, his sermon preparation and delivery, and his listeners to the authority of God’s written Word. The text of Scripture ought to determine the shape, substance and spirit of the sermon.
Is that biblical? Yes, I think so.