All week I have been raising concerns about different approaches taken to preaching. There are others, but I wanted to finish with a reminder of the core requirements for expository preaching. It isn’t about sermon shape – all four approaches mentioned this week might be used in an expository ministry. Yet none of them define it.
1. The best preaching will always involve the work of God’s Spirit. He is the one that searches the depths of the heart and communicates that. We need to be sure that we are pursuing His heart as we study His Word. We must prayerfully pursue the whole process of preparation, all the time being open to learning and changing and growing ourselves. We also need to pursue His heart for the people to whom we preach. Prayer has to be a critical thread throughout the whole preparation process.
2. The best biblical preaching will always be genuinely biblical. That is, the text is not being used, but offered. It isn’t a data source for anecdotes, for launch pads or for proof texting. It is the inspired Word of God that we seek to offer to others as we preach. This means that we take the form seriously, we take the meaning seriously, we take the relevance seriously. The Bible is not something that serves us, it is something that changes us, and it is something we consequently serve to others. And the more effectively we communicate the Word, the clearer the path for listeners to not only gain information, but to be transformed by encountering the God who gives of Himself in His Word.
3. The best preaching will always take the issue of communication seriously. So it isn’t enough to pray hard and study well, producing a textually accurate and even a congregation specific relevant message. If we don’t take our role as communicators seriously, then we can be a real bottleneck. Communication is more than just a crude explanation of exegesis with some illustrations stapled on to the outline. Communication is concerned with the mood of the text, the persons to whom we are speaking, the situation, etc. It is concerned with the words we choose, the way we say them, the body language that reinforces or undermines. Our communication matters because God places such a high value on communication.
4. The best preaching will always emphasise the relevance to the listeners. We don’t make the Bible relevant. We show how it is relevant. And so we don’t perform a sermon to show off our own knowledge, nor even to simply declare God’s truth. We preach to communicate to people. So we care, and we prepare in order to communicate.
God. Bible. Communicator. Listeners. All critical features of expository preaching.