When I was 14, I got my first CD player for my room. I went out and bought a couple of CD’s for my birthday. I can remember wearing out those first CD’s: Nirvana, Aerosmith, Wierd Al Yankovic and Micheal W. Smith. I was confused: an angry kid with a sense of humor and an affinity to Jesus. The thing that is interesting as I look back to the archaic medium of Cd’s is the concept of the album. I listened to each one of those CD’s in their entirety thousands of times. At the end of singing one song, I was already ready for what was coming next. Many artists planned their albums to tell a story over a succession of songs. Today, it’s very different, each song stands alone, a single. Each song must capture the attention of a society who listens to marketed tracks on the radio, buys songs by the individual download and has the habit of skipping from track to track as they fancy. Genres come in and out of vogue seemingly overnight, tastes change, and keeping up is more difficult than ever. I think the same thing has happened to preaching.
I am more convinced than ever that we need to be preaching Expository sermons, and specifically, expository sermons that move through sections of scripture(book studies). If you are unfamiliar with what Expository means, here is Haddon Robinson’s definition:
“Expository Preaching is the communication of a biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher, then through the preacher, applies to the hearers.”(page 29, Biblical Preaching, Robinson)
I am done with topical messages. I am done trying to speak for the entire bible on a topic in a half an hour every Sunday, it’s almost arrogant. How could I possibly teach an exhaustive sermon about a topic referencing the entire bible, it’s ridiculous really. Here is why I think Expository preaching is better:
1) It doesn’t fall into the trap of “pet teachings.” Come on, we’ve all seen the preacher who constantly comes back to the same thing over and over and over. Often times we force our pet topic into a given passage. I don’t want to use a pulpit to get across my own agenda, I want to use scripture to connect my church to God’s. I am for letting the passage speak, if we preach through books, we will hit every topic known to man.
2)It is more focused. I am tired of hearing messages where we have three different passages, in three different sections of scripture, in three different translations of scripture. The only person on the face of the earth who does this well is Rick Warren. I have learned, from following Rick on twitter, that I will never be as clever as him. Seriously, it takes a special communicator to pull it off, I am only an adequate one.
3. Something happens in me when I prepare for an Expository sermon. Something about sitting down in a passage, letting it marinate for a week or more, exhausting where it leads and praying through the consequences of it rocks me personally. God usually changes me while I spend time in one passage. I don’t know if this happens to everyone, but I am more prepared, more moved to communicate, more prayed up, more on the ball where I basted one passage all week. Everything in my week seems to then fit into the ideas that the passage has spoken to me. It is a powerful experience of preparation.
4. Its a more powerful experience for the church. Something about understanding the historical context of a passage, moving through a section the way it was written, understanding how different concepts fit together throughout a particular book is meaningful for a congregation. It is deeper, it is more honoring of scripture, it often gets to more of heart level.
I am done taking my ideas and finding places in scripture to prop them up. I want to honor the word, take it seriously the way it was written and communicate it in a trustworthy manner.
I want to honor the album instead of try and create a new single each week, building momentum as we move through a section of scripture intended to be read in it’s entirety. I am done giving into the topics of the day and preaching to whatever seems to be popular in culture any given week. I trust that God’s word will keep the attention of his people and the deeper we dive, the more we focus, the more He will move in us.
I have been feeling this way for quite some time, here is my latest sermon in the style I hope to preach all the time. Check it out: