Question to Ponder – What is it we preach?

What is it that we preach?  I’m really “preaching to the choir” in this post.  I’m addressing those who are committed to expository preaching and therefore will unhesitatingly affirm – “we preach the Bible!”  Others may hesitate and desire to preach contemporary ideas or whatever else, but for those of us who, at least in theory, preach the Bible, my question stands.  What is it that we preach?  I see two approaches among expository preachers:

Option A – We preach the main thought of a text.

Option B – We preach an aspect of biblical theology prompted by the main thought of a text.

I see strengths in both approaches.  I see potential weaknesses in the way either approach might be applied by some preachers.  I see different preachers and different “schools of thought” falling under different categories in this over-simplified schema.

So how are we to select our option and move forward?  I see value in both options, but on this site I urge a commitment to option A (preach the text you are preaching), with an awareness of option B (develop the theology of the text biblically if you deem it necessary).  I know and respect others who essentially affirm option B for every sermon (always develop the thought through the canon to its fulfilment).

Identifying these two categories is an intriguing starting point for reflection on my own approach to preaching and hopefully for yours too.  Where might this reflection lead?  Is it necessary to offer rationale and critique of each?  Will people recognize that I am not setting up a permanent either/or mutually exclusive construct, but rather identifying the primary leaning of the expository preacher?

3 thoughts on “Question to Ponder – What is it we preach?

  1. Peter,

    Good questions. I would classify myself primarily as an option A preacher. But yesterday I preached an option B sermon. Interesting enough, it was uncomfortable and I didn’t feel good with it but it was biblical and on-target for many people.

    Good reminder that preaching should never be a rut and that God uses all types to bring about transformation in His people. It was also a good exercise for me to help me be a better rounded preacher.


  2. I’ve been landing on B more. I only preach twice a month at a care facility, and mostly to a small group of very elderly residents. I’ve had the chance to become acquainted with some of the folks and discern a strong influence of mind-over-will, stoic spirituality. I’ve found that developing the the theology of the text affectively is feeding hungry souls.

    Thanks so much for this blog, Peter. I find it so helpful and encouraging!

  3. In seminary, I was taught to preach the main thought of the text, which was called the main preaching point followed by the subpoints which explained and expanded the main preaching point. I also had to some up the sermon in one sentence. For example, 1 Peter 4:7-11 in one sentence would be: Living in light of Christ’s return (v. 7a) involves prayer (v. 7b), love (v. 8), hospitality (v. 9), and ministry (vv.10-11).

    I was taught to create a diagrammatical outline of the Greek text, an exegetical outline of the text, and then a homiletical outline of the text. Once this was completed, I developed a preaching outline and that preaching outline was based upon the main thought of the text.

    However, there are opportunities to teach theology. In the above sermon, there is opportunity to teach some points of eschatology in introducing the main preaching point.

    Nevertheless, the main thought of the text is my main preaching point.

    Thanks for your insights!

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