The Basic Elements of a Preaching Definition

It is a good exercise to think through what should be included in a definition of expository preaching.  One way is to collect several definitions and recognize what is present in all of them, or unique to some of them.  While wording may change, it seems to me that a definition should include the following pieces as a bare minimum:

Some reference to the meaning of a biblical text – whether one takes Sunukjian’s phrase “the true and exact meaning of a text” or Robinson’s specification of the method used to arrive at that understanding or simply use of the term “truth,” as in Vines & Shaddix’s “biblical truth,” somehow expository preaching in its definition must honor the reality of specific and true meaning in the text.

Some reference to communication – perhaps “oral communication” or “presentation” or “spoken” or whatever.  Somehow the meaning of a text has to be conveyed to the other side of the chasm (John Stott’s 2nd world) – the listeners.

Some reference to relevance – without relevance, the communication of biblical truth could remain at the level of historical lecture (and often does).  True biblical preaching has to include the meaning of a biblical passage communicated with relevance.  Generally the term “applied” will come in at this point.

Some reference to God – should go without saying, but the whole process involves God.  God’s Spirit at work in the study, in the delivery, in the lives of the listeners, in the Word He inspired, etc.

Expository preaching is surely the meaning of at least one biblical passage communicated with applied relevance to contemporary listeners, the whole process being under the influence of the Holy Spirit.  I still prefer Haddon’s definition in many ways, but would you agree that these four elements form the sine qua non of expository preaching?  What would you include?

5 thoughts on “The Basic Elements of a Preaching Definition

  1. I am a Pastor who is committed to preaching expository messages: in New England, MASSACHUSETTS, of all places. I had the opportunity to do an interview with a small local newspaper. In it, I described that we are different because we use expository preaching. Here is the link:

    My first thought when I read the article was “Do peole even know wha that term means”. But then I rememebred that I defined it, and the reporter was farely inaccurate although used terminology in a somewhat stilted way.

    Pastor Scott Oakland
    New Beginnings Evangelical Church

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