Expository Preaching is More Than a Commentary

In Christ-Centered Preaching (p55), Bryan Chappell makes the following distinction:

“Expository preaching is not a captioned survey of a passage. By this I mean the typical: ‘1. Saul’s Contention, 2. Saul’s Conversion, 3. Saul’s Commission’ (Acts 9:1-19). In my own circles I think I have heard more sermons of this type than any other. They sound very biblical because they are based on a passage of Scripture. But their basic failure is that they tend to be descriptive rather than pastoral. They lack a clear goal or practical application. The congregation may be left without any true insights as to what the passage is really about, and without having received any clear teaching about God or themselves.”

He is so right. My circles also yield many messages of this type. If you look at tomorrow’s notes and discover you have a message like this, what can you do? Well, with just 24 hours to go, probably not too much. Try to change the points from captions to full sentences that state the idea of that section. Try to change those sentences from historical statements to contemporary applicational points. Or just preach what you have and pray for God to use it anyway.

However, before you start next week’s message, there are things you can do. First of all, remember that your goal is not to present a vocal commentary, but a message where God’s Word is vital and relevant to the lives of your listeners. Take the time to evaluate the listeners as well as the passage. Make clear notes for yourself on the purpose of your message. Seek to integrate relevance and application throughout the message, not only at the level of “illustrations,” but right in the points themselves. Make the points full sentences. Preach to transform lives, trusting the Holy Spirit to do the transforming, but not “despite” your message.

Repent of the faulty idea that merely getting biblical information into peoples’ heads, perhaps with a brief vague application in the conclusion, is enough. To preach an expository message, seek to bring the truth of the Word and the lives of your listeners into an encounter. It is about real life, not vague application. It is about the heart, not just the head.

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