The Church has been trying to preach morality and ethics without the Gospel as a basis; thereby preaching morality without godliness; and it simply does not work. It never has, and it never will.
The primary task of the Church and of the Christian minister is the preaching of the Word of God.
— Martin Lloyd Jones, Preaching and Preachers
Whether one is a believer, a spectator, or an opponent of the gospel, there is no question that the majority of people (at least Americans) know the “church routine”. The worship service begins with songs/hymns of praise, followed by an intermediate interruption (be it offering, announcements, or recognition), and then the main sermon. Lately, Christian leaders have shifted away from the pulpit in favor of music, showmanship, and visuals, believing that this is what people want. We have forgotten that the highest form of worship is not the songs/hymns we sing in church, but rather the highest form of worship is preaching, studying, and believing the Word of God.
The Bible has become a sort of backdrop in the pulpits of modern Christianity. In many churches I have visited, I have begun to notice the lack of Bibles that were in the hands of preachers. I am not talking about preachers who used an iPad rather than a literal, printed Bible, but rather in the sense that these preachers came to the pulpit without any reverence for Scripture, and that has become very frightening to me, especially when seeing what has replaced the Bible: lame visuals, hilariously-bad illustrations, visionary speeches, motivational pep-talks, outlandish personalities, etc. For the longest time, I thought that only Reformed Christians were desiring biblical preaching, but according to recent statistics, that’s not the case.
According to a recent Gallup Poll that was done in April of 2017 (that’s right…that recent), 75% of church goers say that preaching is the most important factor of deciding what church to attend. Also, 76% of people surveyed said that preaching from the Bible is the most crucial form of preaching. When asked how important is it to have a good music, atmosphere, or visuals, 38% said that it was important, but not essential. In fact, 61% believed that not only should those things come second, but they believed that it wasn’t something worth discussing. In short, people are hungry for biblical teaching.
Every local church gathering is going to be different. Every local church has an audience that varies with race, gender, dialects, politics, philosophies, etc. The Church is scattered with people who are introverts, extroverts, ambiverts, weirdoverts (like me), etc. My point: the Church is comprised of various people with different backgrounds. So, how can you possibly know what the people want? The moment preachers begin acting in accordance to what people want, is the moment when the preacher will fail to be a good steward of God. The best way that a sermon could be applicable to a person’s life is through a style of preaching that is known as expository preaching.
Expository preaching is when a preacher takes a text of Scripture, and provides a comprehensive explanation of it. When someone is doing topical preaching, that person already has a topic in mind and just tries to gets Scriptures to back him up. When someone is practicing textual preaching (which is commonly mistaken for expository preaching), that person takes a Scripture, and makes an entire sermon from a sub-point in the text, rather than dwelling on the actual context. However, when someone prepares for an expository sermon, they go through the following procedures:
- There is no presupposed topic.
- There is an extensive study of the textual context, background, intended message, and application.
- Analyzation of the text, so as to make it clear enough for anyone to understand.
- Writing a sermon that elevates the text, rather than the individual.
Shai Linne, a pastor and Christian hip-hop artist, wrote a song called expository preaching. It had me screaming, “Amen!” practically every line. (click here to listen; it’s amazing). I believe that it is every preacher’s job to exercise expository preaching. It is not a sin to preach topical or textual sermons, but the only way for God to truly speak to a congregation is through the unbiased preaching of Scripture. We don’t need cheap theatrics; we need to know what God is trying to tell us through His Word.
When instructing Timothy for preaching, Paul writes this in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV), “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Scripture is what we need to live a godly life. We don’t need inspirational speeches, motivational pep-talks, bewitching visuals, or anything of the sort. What we need are preachers who believe in the importance of expository preaching.
Great preachers of the past, and present alike, are remembered, and some forgotten. Some had power, while others withered away from history. What determines a sermon or a preacher that will last through the ages, is based on what Jesus said concerning His Word in Matthew 24:35 (HCSB), “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.” This is why we remember the names of the preachers that never forget to come to the pulpit with their Bible’s opened, and their lips ready to speak the words of Almighty God:
- Charles H. Spurgon (the prince of preachers)
- George Whitefield
- Martin Luther
- John Calvin
- Dr. John MacArthur
- Dr. Steve Lawson (my hero of the faith)
- Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones (the champion of the pulpit)
and of course…
- Jesus Christ Himself, the greatest expositor of Scripture that ever lived, proving His own death, burial and resurrection was supposed to happen through Scripture, and proved His coming through the Scriptures. All Scripture testifies to Him, His work, and His glory.
Why is expository preaching important? Because God’s Word stands firm through every age, in every culture, throughout all the world, and penetrates the hearts of men and women. Are we better than our own Lord to believe we can preach without the Bible? Are we more clever than Him to believe that we can come up with better techniques? Are we smarter than the Apostles, the Reformers, the Preachers, and the men of God from the past to believe that can improve on something that isn’t just unbroken, but perfect?
Are we going to ignore the cries of the majority of Christians who are desperate for biblical exposition, rather than silliness? How many more pastors do I have to see coming on the pulpit, without ever opening their Bibles or explaining a text? The only way we can experience a true worship, and God’s truest presence is by the preaching, studying, and hearing of the Word. The Word of God is perfect, pure, true, and authoritative. The preacher must be subject to the text, not vice versa. May all who practice preaching preach nothing but the Word of God, and may we never forget where our place is in God’s ministry.
Soli Deo Gloria.