My Journey to Expository Preaching
In 1997, I preached my first sermon as a 16-year-old student. My text was 2 Samuel 9, and my sermon was about grace in the life of Mephibosheth. It was actually “preached” at a “preaching competition” for Christian schools in Ohio.
Due mostly to good coaching from Debbie Kurtz, my speech teacher, and Bill Fennell, one of the pastors at Mansfield Baptist Temple, I “won” the competition. But as a young novice preacher then, I had (and still have) much to learn about what it means to preach God’s Word faithfully.
From secondary school up through my 8th year of full-time ministry in 2009, I preached mostly topical messages. I tried to make sure that my sermons were rooted in Scripture, but, if I am honest, there were times my sermons were guided more by my insights than a Biblical passage.
Sometimes, I had something I wanted to say and tried to find a passage that said it. Other times, I found a good passage but then felt I needed to help the text out with a clever outline. And other times, I came up with a good topical series on some felt need and then looked for Bible passages that would deal with those topics.
Thankfully, God is very gracious and merciful and usually works in spite of us not because of us. Even though I don’t feel that I was as faithful to Scripture as I could have been, I still believe the Lord used my preaching to help people.
After numerous topical sermons and several bad experiences of preaching sequentially through books of the Bible (e.g. 1 Timothy in 6 sermons), God began to lead me toward a more expository preaching style. I am very grateful to Austin Gardner, my pastor, in regard to this. He helped to mentor and encourage me to move toward this style of preaching, and I have found it to be one of the most exciting, powerful, and humbling experiences in life.
Since 2009, in the various churches I have been involved with, I have been privileged to preach or teach through the following books of the Bible: Genesis (twice), Joshua (twice), 1 Samuel, Ezra, Nehemiah (twice), Proverbs (half), Jonah, Matthew (half), Mark, John, Acts (twice), Romans (twice), 1 Corinthians (twice), Ephesians (twice), 1 Timothy (twice), 2 Timothy, Titus, Hebrews, 1 Peter, 1 John (twice), and 2 John.
It is hard to say the impact on my hearers, but one thing I can say is that each book has left an indelible impression on my life. Here are a few reasons I would recommend you preach expository sermons (and where possible, sequentially through books of the Bible):
Expository preaching lets God speak. Rather than the preacher choosing the topic and the direction of the sermon, God is allowed to set the agenda for what is spoken from the pulpit.
Expository preaching keeps the preacher in check. Preachers and pastors are fallible and prone to have “pet issues.” As they preach through the Bible, they have to humbly submit themselves to what God has chosen to record in the Bible. In a sense, this also allows Christ through the Word to exercise His headship over the church.
Expository preaching is powerful. The “word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any towedged sword…” (Hebrews 4:12). It will do what no man can do, no matter how eloquent and convincing he may be.
Expository preaching is healthy. God’s Word is profitable and sufficient for everything we and our churches need (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is completely able to build up God’s church (Acts 20:32). As we preach through it, God will administer to His church everything it needs (“all the counsel of God” Acts 20:27).
Expository preaching unleashes the power of the Holy Spirit. God’s Word is called the “sword of the Spirit” (Eph 6;17) and as we faithfully declare it, the wonderful Holy Spirit can move and work in hearts.
Expository preaching builds people’s confidence in the Word of God. If we simply springboard from a text and then share our thoughts without coming back to the text time and again to expound it, we are subtly saying that God’s Word is not enough, that it requires the addition of human insight.
Expository preaching teaches people how to study and understand the Bible. As we teach the Bible and wrestle with the text, we model for our hearers how to study, understand, and apply God’s Word. This equips them to get into God’s Word for themselves, so they can be strong self-feeding Christians.
Expository preaching is reproducible. Preachers are not only charged with preaching God’s Word but with committing to faithful men what they have received (2 Tim 2:2). If our style of preaching is primarily dependent on personal talent, skill, and insight, then it can be very daunting and difficult to imitate. However, if we preach in a way that walks people through the text, explaining it as we go along and applying it practically to people’s lives, new preachers can more easily learn and imitate this style.
I am sure there are other benefits of expository preaching. Feel free to share in the comments how you have benefited from expository preaching.