Problems with Expository Preaching?

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jwithnell

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This article: regarding expository preaching and others I've seen recently just seem so odd to me. If revelation and redemption are inextricably linked, how could someone be preaching on any text (or series of texts, say through a book) without preaching Christ? It also seems odd in that these articles are so people-directed. Isn't preaching part of God's worship? Are not the words given all the more powerful to engage the soul because of the Holy Spirit's illumination and Christ's particular presence during worship? I would dry up and blow away were it not for this continuous steady feeding on the word.
 

KMK

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I agree with most of what he says, but take exception to his last point:

Evangelistic preaching does not best fit the “expository” mode; in fact, where the “expository” is exclusively used, true evangelistic preaching to heart and conscience commonly disappears.

'Evangelistic preaching to heart and conscience' does not need to disappear in expository preaching. It should be part of the sermon application on a regular basis.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Several pastors that I know state that all sermons must take all the points and sub-points from one text of scripture.

Usually this is done from the letters of Paul, which are very abstract.

Though I cannot judge motivations, when I have been around some of these folks, it has seemed that they often pick apart others' sermons if those sermons do not conform to their type of rigidly constructed sermon, as taught in their ministerial academy.


However, in non-literate societies (and perhaps now in the West) people either do not know or have lost track of the larger narrative story of Scripture. Some cultures consist of oral learners. In these cases, the narrative portions of Scripture are the easiest for the locals to understand and to memorize. The bible contains LOTS of stories and parables and these parables often have one or two driving themes and are accompanied by other parables with the same driving theme. So, some may gasp, but I would advocate storying the Gospel or preaching the Gospel in a more narrative form among oral or non-literate peoples. The martyr Stephen and others seemed to give broad summaries of salvation history during their public proclamation of the Gospel.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
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You can take the story of Noah or Jesus' time in the wilderness and any of the more narrative forms and still stay very close to the text at hand and to the other texts in scripture that interpret that passage. I was just amazed reading in one article that found a problem with spending a year in the Psalms. What culture would not relate to songs? What portion of the gospel is missed there particularly as the New Testament interprets the Psalms?

Again, revelation and redemption go hand in hand. While more simple terms may be needed in some settings, we can trust that God will speak through His word and the wise application of that word to the situation at hand. So often when churches move away from an exegetical style. texts are plucked out here and there and are used as a launching pad to give generalized musings.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
I think that Iain Murray has a point. I have seen the problem he was concerned with firsthand.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I once visited a reformed church where the sermon began, "We left off at verse 8 last week...let's see how many verses we can do this week."

Then, a running commentary began, and this running verse-by-verse comment lacked one central theme or application, and was merely a commentary upon the text chronologically until the time expired. The pastor seemed to be patterning his sermon off of Calvin's Commentary in style and format and even commented on texts that crossed into differing subjects matters if this happened to be the next verse in a row.

I was only a visitor, THANK GOD, because already I was calculating in my mind, 'Okay, the next chapter will happen around Thanksgiving, and then perhaps they might get to verse 5 of that next chapter by Christmas....WE ARE GONNA BE IN THIS ONE EPISTLE FOR 16 YEARS AT THIS RATE!!!!!!"
 
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jwithnell

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That's a sad commentary (oops, no pun originally intended) on expository preaching. On one hand, I have no problem with the length of time someone spends in a book. (My current pastor covers about twice per sermon as the first I heard preaching in this manner.) On the other, I doubt how well either the preacher or the congregation understands the passage if it's not carried over into application. It can be easy to say, this means .... but to put it within the context of a particular time and place for the sermon demands real understanding.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
I once visited a reformed church where the sermon began, "We left off at verse 8 last week...let's see how many verses we can do this week."

Then, a running commentary began, and this running verse-by-verse comment lacked one central theme or application, and was merely a commentary upon the text chronologically until the time expired. The pastor seemed to be patterning his sermon off of Calvin's Commentary in style and format and even commented on texts that crossed into differing subjects matters if this happened to be the next verse in a row.

I was only a visitor, THANK GOD, because already I was calculating in my mind, 'Okay, the next chapter will happen around Thanksgiving, and then perhaps they might get to verse 5 of that next chapter by Christmas....WE ARE GONNA BE IN THIS ONE EPISTLE FOR 16 YEARS AT THIS RATE!!!!!!"

There are some churches (Calvary Chapel) who call this kind of verse by verse running commentary 'expositional'. They use the term differently than Reformed folk.
 
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TomVols

Puritan Board Freshman
I have critiqued Murray before on this. He is far too hasty in his generalizations. While not totally without merit, he largely gets caught up in a reactionary broad-brush mentality. Eat the meat he serves but spit out the plentiful bones in this article.
 

Hawk

Puritan Board Freshman
From my experience: At BJU we had preachers of all different stripes come in to chapel and Bible conference. One consistent theme was that the more "old school" fundamentalists preached in a folksy, topical dumbed down message with quite a bit of extrabiblical dicussion. This took them down the path of a lot of legalism (RULES RULES RULES) and a little bit of heresy at times (not institutional, just individual). The younger seminary students and pastors focused more on the text and expository style. I found this to help "stick" to orthodoxy more accurately and took care of the other issues. I think it is true that different people respond to different things, but if a sermon amounts to topical "proof texting" it is far too easy for a preach to stray.

As a side bar, it seems that a place of higher learning would enjoy a more academic approach to Scripture; however, you have to reach the seminary to be afforded this opportunity.
 
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