Exposition, Narrative and a Pot of Soup

There is a common misunderstanding of expositional preaching in relation to Bible stories.  I’ve heard the analogy used of a pot of soup.  A narrative sermon is like a pot of soup prepared carefully to be enjoyed by the guests – an experience to be savoured.  An expositional sermon is like an explanation of the recipe of the pot of soup.  Recognizing the difference between narrative preaching and preaching narratives, let’s engage with this analogy briefly.

With some preachers this negative recipe description may be fitting, but that doesn’t make the analogy accurate.  An expository preacher is concerned about communicating the point of the passage, rather than seeking to explain the point of every detail.  A good expository preacher knows that a story has its own way of carrying and conveying its point.  Thus a good expositor preacher, preaching a story, will not dissect it into a lifeless and experience-free recipe, but will communicate the story as effectively and accurately as possible.

What needs to be added to the telling of the story?  Any necessary explanation to make sense of it.  An underlining of the point, exposed for clarity, but appropriately timed so as not to undermine the impact.  If not inherently implicit, some form of emphasis on the contemporary relevance of the story.

What isn’t needed is endless detailed explanation, or numerous unnecessary and disconnected illustrations, or ill-timed statements of the proposition, or commentary-style titles for each segment of the message, or a manner which robs the story of its emotion, tension or energy.

When you preach a story, be sure to be expository . . . but not the wrong kind that feels like the explanation of a recipe!

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