Frowning on Catechetical or Doctrinal Preaching

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C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Graduate
I once heard a faithful minister say, "preach one topical sermon every ten years, and then repent." While this is meant facetiously, its emblematic of the attitude of most Reformed folks toward preaching. A high premium is placed on expositional preaching (EP), and rightfully so.

However, one side effect of this zeal for and insistence on EP is a contempt for catechetical or doctrinal preaching. Catechetical preaching has a long and rich history within the Church and especially the Reformed Church. But I have encountered those who recoil from the prospect of a preacher giving a systematic treatment of a certain biblical doctrine or confessional document. "If its not EP," they maintain, "then its no preaching at all."

I have experienced this (on more than one occasion) with Reformed types who had zeal for EP and therefore took interest in our church but were somewhat dismayed and off put when they saw that on Sunday evenings I was preaching through a confessional document or on a doctrinal matter. This seemed to offend their purest EP sensibilities.

To be clear, our Sunday mornings are given exclusively to the systematic exposition of God's Word. But on Sunday nights, I will often preach catechetically.

Have any of you experienced this? And what are your thoughts on the matter? Do some Reformed types take the imperative of EP too far? - to the exclusion of other legitimate forms of preaching?
 

CIT

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I basically do the same thing that you are doing. I preach through a book in the AM and on a topic in the PM
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
I am always upset when a preacher pretends his sermon is his own, but it turns out it belongs to someone else. If it was made clear that the sermon was based on Q X of 'fill in the blank' catechism, I don't see any justification for being upset.
 

Wayne

Tempus faciendi, Domine.
I would applaud your practice. One solution, at least for any members of the congregation who are troubled by catechetical preaching,
might be to tie the evening catechetical sermon to the text and/or content of the morning exegetical sermon. That would require more thought
and planning on your part, but could often be done. In the morning you're preaching on the proof text, and in the evening, the catechetical expression of that text.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Graduate
It seems to me that even in Expository Preaching the systematics of the Confession and Catechisms can rightly be brought in.

But is this the only appropriate way to employ the doctrinal or confessional abstracts (i.e. within a expository sermon)?
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Graduate
If it was made clear that the sermon was based on Q X of 'fill in the blank' catechism, I don't see any justification for being upset.

But have you noticed a tide which runs contrary to any topical, doctrinal, or catechetical preaching? This is principally what I'm talking about.
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
At my first pastorate, I preached through a book of the Bible in the morning service and then through the Shorter Catechism during the evening service.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
Have any of you experienced this?

Once we had a guy stand up in the congregation and interrupt a guest preacher, correcting the preacher because he began his sermon by telling a story rather than by reading the text he planned to exposit. So you can be glad that guy isn't at your church on Sunday evenings.

I think in the non-confessional Baptist church I attend some would have concerns about topical or matters-of-doctrine preaching, even if it wasn't based on a confessional document, simply out of a worry that it might feel like we're being led by a theology textbook rather than the Bible alone. In the Presbyterian and Reformed churches I've been a part of, this sort of thing is done more often and I wasn't aware of any opposition.
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
If it was made clear that the sermon was based on Q X of 'fill in the blank' catechism, I don't see any justification for being upset.

But have you noticed a tide which runs contrary to any topical, doctrinal, or catechetical preaching? This is principally what I'm talking about.

In my circles I have not noticed this at all. All of the pastors I know and hear on an occasional or regular basis (generally ARBCA or ARBCA-friendly) preach both methods, either during the same period (as in morning and evening series) or sequentially (as in, a series on a book, then a detour into a particular doctrine, then back to the book). Dividing a doctrine seris and a series on a book is a very common practice. I haven't heard anybody condemn it.
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
For what it's worth - I recently visited John Piper's church (it's literally across the highway from where my son lives), and he stated that he tends to alternate between expositional series on books of the Bible and more topical series. The latter tend to be shorter, and the subject based on feedback from his elders, each whom superintendents over a number of small fellowship groups, concerning any particular issues the congregation seems to be especially dealing or struggling with (e.g. marriage, prayer, etc.). Seems a reasonable and balanced approach to me.
 

Guido's Brother

Puritan Board Junior
Here's my 0.02: a lot of folks who object to catechism preaching have never heard a catechism sermon and really have no idea what they are objecting to. This coming Sunday afternoon, I'll be preaching on the seventh commandment, using Lord's Day 41 of the Heidelberg Catechism as a guide to the range of biblical teaching on this. I have numerous catechism sermons available online here (scroll down). I've issued the challenge before and will do so again: please read some of these sermons and show me where and how I am not preaching God's Word.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
The division here reminds me of a separation some try to make between systematic and Biblical theology (i.e. one has to be preferred to another). At least following a catechism means you won't be skipping over the difficult or ikky topics. I hope that all reformed churches have a way of teaching the systematics side for all ages, whether in sermons, Sunday school, a mid-week study, etc. My preference for sermons would be maybe a 70/30 (or less) exegetical to systematic approach with the doctrine drawn out from the scriptures in which it originates. Of course this particular pew dweller has deverloped a decided preference for Biblical theology : )
 
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