10 Ways to Half Preach a Text – Part iv

Sometimes it is just a good idea to finish a list.  Let’s go, two more items to add, especially for preachers who like to tick the “expository preacher” self-description box:

9. Explain it, but don’t apply it.

This is a common error among those who say they are most committed to expository preaching.  They will give in-depth explanation of the preaching passage, sometimes avoiding every item on the list so far.  Carefully explained text in context with focus on historical situation, authorial intent, and perhaps some linking into the broader sweep of theological and salvation history.  Solid stuff.  Then they stop.

One of the reasons I use Haddon Robinson’s label of “biblical preaching” for this site, rather than “expository preaching” is because of the baggage people have with the latter term.  Some people grew up listening to endless dry Bible lectures and whenever they questioned its value they were silenced with a war cry for “faithful expository preaching!”  Problem is, preaching without emphasizing the relevance to the listeners is not expository preaching, no matter how good a Bible lecture it may be.

We simply can’t abdicate our role as preachers when it comes to applicational relevance and hide behind the notion that this is the work of the Holy Spirit.  This is to suggest that I can handle the illumination of the text, but will hand the baton over to the Spirit for application of the text.  Sorry, it is both/and.  The entire process of preparation and delivery, of explanation and application, is a process in which the Spirit is at work, and so is the preacher.  We must apply what we explain.

10. Commentary it, but don’t proclaim it.

This is another one for “expositors” to keep in mind.  Either due to a certain approach in training, or as learned behavior from examples observed, too many preachers preach sermon points that are actually commentary titles.  “The next point in my sermon is Saul’s Contention!”  Uh, no, that is the next subtitle in the commentary you are reading out to us.  There is a big difference between biblical commentary and biblical proclamation.

When we proclaim a text, we look to speak it out to our listeners.  Oral communication does not match written communication.  We don’t speak in titles, we speak in sentences.  Let me encourage you to make your points into full sentences, and why not make them contemporary rather than historical if possible?  This will keep us from sounding like we are reading our personal biblical commentary, and listeners are more likely to sense that God’s Word has been proclaimed and they have heard from Him.

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4 thoughts on “10 Ways to Half Preach a Text – Part iv

  1. Thanks Peter, This is a great list and these last two are of utmost importance especially for those of us who have been trained at schools that are adamant that we as preachers are to be expositors. The only problem I have with the training that I received is that it did not go far enough. Thank you for continuing my education and encouraging us to be biblical preachers rather than just expositional lecturers:)

    • James is a great example of the Application point! You say you have faith or wisdom? Prove it! Then he goes on to specifics: tongue, riches, praying, asking rightly…) James made the rubber hit the road. -Thanks Peter!

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