Daniel Goepfrich wrote a substantial interaction with this blog over on his site – here – this post is responding to the issue of relevant preaching from paragraph 12 to the end.
You then progress to the issue of contemporary relevance. I agree with you that the Bible is full of God’s spokesmen addressing contemporary issues (prophets, Jesus, apostles, etc.) As I have already mentioned, my understanding of expository preaching is not about form of preaching, but a commitment to understanding and communicating the biblical text with emphasis on its relevance now. I quoted Wiersbe’s comment on Ironside to prompt thought, not to suggest that we should only preach straight through books, and I appreciate you noticing that early on and changing your post accordingly.
However, there is an issue worth thinking through here. Do we “make the text relevant” or do we show “how the text is relevant?” To use Stott’s approach in Between Two Worlds, is the text boss of the message, or is the preacher? This is where expository preaching is separated from other approaches (again, not a form issue, an authority issue). Does the biblical narrative speak with authority in reference to God and humanity, or is it merely a recounting of what happened? Does the message of the prophets, or Jesus, or Paul, or James, speak with authority today, or is it merely an example to follow in that we too should speak relevantly? I don’t think you are suggesting that, but I gently push your words toward a perhaps logical conclusion? No, you are right when you say that we preach the Bible because it is relevant today. I heartily agree.
In fact, what you suggest is that we use the Bible texts to speak to today’s situations, but we need not feel constrained to the form of writing in which they were recorded. I do not advocate strict adherence to the form so that every sermon has to be a verse-by-verse re-presentation. I would suggest that is a good default place to start though. Why? Because form is not merely a type of cultural baggage that we can dispose of and lose nothing. No, the writers were deliberate communicators and we will not fully understand them if we do not seek to understand what they wrote in the way that they wrote it. So I would urge the preacher to study a passage both in context, and with awareness of the genre and form it is in.
Do we have to preach according to that form? Not necessarily. However, if we want our listeners to know how to understand the Bible, then we do them a major disservice if we don’t show how form influences meaning. Hence my position – the form of the text is a good default for the form of the sermon, but there may be good reasons to adjust the form of the sermon away from the form of the text.
I have really appreciated your post and interaction with my site. I hope my response has been helpful in clarifying where I’m coming from? Thanks for recognizing that I’m not dogmatic about form as some are (i.e. the “consecutive only” preaching proponents). I hope this post has helped to clarify that while I see real benefits to consecutive preaching, my real commitment is to a true understanding of “expository preaching.”
I agree that we need to keep preaching what people need to hear, rather than just what they want to hear. That argument could be used by both sides on the consecutive versus topical debate. The fact is, people need to hear what God is saying, and for that we must be committed to expository preaching – whether we choose to use a consecutive approach (as you will with Philippians) or a topical approach. Not everything is expository, though, and I am concerned about preaching that uses the text to say what the preacher wants to say (which could happen in both consecutive and topical preaching!) For that reason we need to be continually growing as students of the Word of God.
Every blessing in your ministry, Daniel, and thank you again for reading biblicalpreaching.net