15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2Ti 2:15 ESV)
I shared with you what I believe are the“9 Marks” of a healthy church. The first mark on that list from Mark Dever is expositional preaching. Expository preaching was the primary approach by preachers during the Reformation up to about one hundred years ago. From John Calvin (16th century) to Charles Hodge at Princeton Seminary (19th century) expositional preaching reigned.
However, such preaching was eclipsed because of many theological and cultural reasons; it was replaced by other methods. One other method is topical preaching. Topical preaching takes a topic and expounds on the topic by stringing together a number of biblical texts about that topic. For example, a preacher chooses a topic like love. After choosing the topic, then the preacher brings together in a coherent fashion a number of different texts of scripture, biblical texts that deal with the topic of love. Many times topical sermons are strung together in a series. The strength of this approach is its weakness. The strength is the strength of the preacher. The preacher chooses topics he/she is knowledgeable or knows something about. Yet that’s a weakness! Such preaching limits the congregation to the knowledge of the preacher. A preacher who only preaches what he knows limits preaching to what he knows. And preaching that is limited to what the preacher knows limits the spiritual growth of a church. It may not limit the numerical growth of a church. There are many large churches limited spiritually. But it will limit the spiritual growth, the growth of a healthy church.
There are other approaches to preaching like topical, but one thing they all have in common: they are limited to what the preacher knows. This will stagnate both the growth of the preacher and the growth of a church. One of the marks of stagnation is conformation to the world’s standard. This is the main reason why the church looks so much like, acts like, talks like, smells like the larger pagan, secular, humanistic culture. In contrast expository preaching seeks to transform God’s people by the renewing of the mind by God’s Word. Expository preaching seeks to explain a text of Scripture in context, chapter upon chapter, verse upon verse within a whole book of the bible. It seeks to explain the main point of a text. To do that it requires grappling with the meaning of the text in context. It forces the preacher to preach not what he wants, not what he knows, but what is in the Word. It forces the preacher (as Paul says to Timothy) to “rightly handle the word of truth.” Such an approach transformatively expands the mind of God’s people. The fruit of such an approach is a healthier congregation.
Sometime next month I hope to begin preaching through the whole book of Acts at my own church. We will be transformed and our minds, hearts will continue to expand by the power of God’s Word which is health to our souls. If you are looking for a church, make sure your church and your pastor preaches the whole counsel of God’s will via expository preaching!!
Soli Deo Gloria