Topical Preaching

Jonathan95

Puritan Board Freshman
Hello! Blessed Lord's Day to you all!

What are your thoughts when it comes to churches where the primary form of preaching is topical? I'm currently attending a church that is like this. It's all good stuff mind you. The topics seem to focus in on God's character, how we are sinners in need of saving, that we are saved by faith alone, that we need to repent and follow after God etc.

They don't seem to be interested in going line by line through all of Scripture. What are some of your thoughts on attending a church like this?
 

Taylor Sexton

Puritan Board Senior
There is nothing inherently wrong with topical preaching, as long as it is done expositionally (i.e., not using a text as a mere springboard or prooftext for a prefabricated hobbyhorse rant). But, there is something to be said about methodically working through whole books of the Bible:

1) It provides the congregation with invaluable insights on how to read Scripture effectively and in sequence. Many Christians have little to no concept of actual Bible study; they merely hop around from text to text or passage to passage, rarely getting an idea of how the parts fit into the whole. Modeling so-called "verse-by-verse" preaching from the pulpit can subconsciously teach the congregation how to read and study the Bible properly.

2) Topical preaching allows the preacher conveniently to skip over difficult passages. Right now, our pastor is working through Exodus verse-by-verse. Therefore, he must deal with the laws concerning slaves, which I imagine most broader evangelicals will not even touch due to possibly "triggering" the leftists in their congregation (who at this point should have been confronted and, if unrepentant, excommunicated months ago anyway).

3) Related to the above, topical preaching will inevitably leave large gaps in the Scripture diet of the congregation.

I don't suppose there is anything in Scripture that would mandate a certain method of preaching, but wisdom dictates (at least to me) that verse-by-verse expositional preaching, with the occasional deviation for various good reasons, is the best approach. Others may be able to weigh in with other thoughts, as well.
 

Jo_Was

Puritan Board Freshman
As in all things, 'moderation' is helpful to consider. I have seen it quite common, for instance, that many Dutch reformed churches will sometimes have a series that goes through the catechism in evening worship. Still focused on Scripture and founded often in larger passages, but it's not uncommon to do that. That would technically be topical, even if those topics are structured.

I think Taylor does bring up some good points, however, that even topical preaching should be grounded in Scripture.

At the same time, I think good preaching balances the exposition, application, and experiential aspects of the text. Different books may require different technique in how it is approached.

Our pastor is currently going through 1 John which has been a delightful book to go through. However, he often spends several weeks on the same passage to draw out different aspects of that same section of verses. To some, I suppose that might appear topical, even while we are going in order though the text. I think our pastor does a good job of being expositional, while also allowing us to see the broader context without getting too bogged down on one single word or verse. I think it's nice when there is a balance, because being too narrow can also be just as frustrating when done in a manner not fruitful to the hearers.

The preacher, while ordained of God and used for the church whether he is eloquent or not, still employs use of soft skills of organization, structure, oration, etc. that grow over a man's ministry. It is always encouraging to be under a man who grows, or to hear someone at the beginning of their ministry, and hear them even a year or two later how they grow in their ability to teach.
 

Spurgeonite

Puritan Board Freshman
Correct me if I'm wrong, but even when preaching verse by verse, when we focus a whole sermon on a single verse or several words, this is generally quite "topical" is it not?
 

Taylor Sexton

Puritan Board Senior
Correct me if I'm wrong, but even when preaching verse by verse, when we focus a whole sermon on a single verse or several words, this is generally quite "topical" is it not?
Generally, "topical preaching" as opposed to "verse-by-verse preaching" refers to a diet of preaching that, rather than methodically working through a book of Scripture, is directed by the pastor's whim. But, yes, both can be exegetical or even more topical in style.
 

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
If the Spirit wants topical, a pastor should do topical. If verse by verse, then so. The Spirit moves like the wind, deciding His own direction, and the pastor should be sensitive to that. Subjective yes, but He knows what Christ’s will is for the congregation, and will guide in this question as to how to conduct the preaching.

Example, what if the congregation is dominated by a particular sin, and an extraordinary way of dealing with it is needed? Or tragedy has come? At that point, just going to the next verse in your regular exposition would be out of place.
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Snowflake
Topical preaching done well is certainly useful and helpful, but while I believe it has a legitimate place in the "preaching diet" of a local church, I don't believe it should be the mainstay of that diet. I believe that the best way for God's people to ingest God's Word is in the context units he provided in the individual books of Scripture. Thus I believe that preaching verse-by-verse, lectio continua, through the books of Scripture - balance between the OT and the NT and the various genre styles - is the best method of proclaiming and expositing the whole counsel of God's Word. Within that context, good topical preaching provides a good opportunity to look at God's Word systematically.

So, for instance, in my congregation, during 2020 we worked through Nahum, 1 Thess, and Esther. Then beginning in October I did a 5 week series on the Solas of the Reformation, which was topical - but hopefully done well.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
Topical preaching is useful because it stops every sermon just becoming a running commentary. Preachers are often introduced as the person who will "come and explain the Bible to us", but preaching is surely more than simply explaining the Bible to people. Also, ministers are to preach the word of God, not merely the words of God. They cannot realistically preach the whole counsel of God to their congregations if every sermon is a verse by verse exposition.
 

Taylor Sexton

Puritan Board Senior
Topical preaching is useful because it stops every sermon just becoming a running commentary. Preachers are often introduced as the person who will "come and explain the Bible to us", but preaching is surely more than simply explaining the Bible to people. Also, ministers are to preach the word of God, not merely the words of God. They cannot realistically preach the whole counsel of God to their congregations if every sermon is a verse by verse exposition.
It seems to me that what you describe here is not an inherent problem of "verse-by-verse" preaching, but is rather just bad verse-by-verse exposition. That's why it's called verse-by-verse preaching, not just verse-by-verse commentary. If a preacher is doing mere running commentary in his lectio continua, switching to a topical approach will most assuredly not fix anything. The problem is his preaching, not the diet.
 

JTB.SDG

Puritan Board Sophomore
Hello! Blessed Lord's Day to you all!

What are your thoughts when it comes to churches where the primary form of preaching is topical? I'm currently attending a church that is like this. It's all good stuff mind you. The topics seem to focus in on God's character, how we are sinners in need of saving, that we are saved by faith alone, that we need to repent and follow after God etc.

They don't seem to be interested in going line by line through all of Scripture. What are some of your thoughts on attending a church like this?
As the brother below said, there's nothing inherently wrong with it. If you are okay with it, that's that. If it bugs you, look elsewhere.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
It seems to me that what you describe here is not an inherent problem of "verse-by-verse" preaching, but is rather just bad verse-by-verse exposition. That's why it's called verse-by-verse preaching, not just verse-by-verse commentary. If a preacher is doing mere running commentary in his lectio continua, switching to a topical approach will most assuredly not fix anything. The problem is his preaching, not the diet.

Yes, you are correct; my point is merely that topical preaching is a prudent means that should be used to help correct this error.
 

Jonathan95

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks all. I'll keep all of this mind and continue to be thankful and pray for the church and it's elders.
 
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