With this fifth part in the series on expository preaching, I want to recommend to you some of the tools that will be necessary to direct you toward expository preaching. Much of what I have learned about this type of preaching has been primarily garnered by self-study. I have taken two classes at a seminary level that pushed me toward the concept of expository preaching. However much of it was learned simply by reading books (some of them multiple times) that dealt with the expository method. I marked them up in the margins and underlined things for emphasis and always had a notebook that I could write things down that really seemed to be able to help me.
I look at books much as a carpenter looks at his assortment of tools in his toolbox. There are some tools the carpenter will use every single day and there are others that he will use occasionally while others will be used rarely. But all in all, he still has them at his disposal.
I found initially that biography held much inspiration for me. In the early ‘90’s, I found G. Campbell Morgan’s biography by his daughter, Jill, to be very helpful for me. It described his days at Westminster Chapel and his process of studying and preaching. Charles Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students was a very helpful book although Spurgeon was not what one would classify as an expositor in the manner of verse-by-verse preaching. Preaching and Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones is a classic that was required reading for my Homiletics class at TBC. I did not realize the value of this book until probably the late ‘90’s when I pulled it down again and begin to re-read the passion that ML-J had for preaching.
In my estimation the book that had the greatest impact on me concerning this type of preaching was written by John MacArthur in collaboration with the faculty of the Master’s Seminary. It was originally published in 1992 under the title Rediscovering Expository Preaching. It has since been republished with some helpful updates under the simple title of Preaching. This book is almost like having a classroom at your fingertips. It literally will walk you through the whole process of how to put together an expository study method. You will find yourself having to grasp the understanding of hermeneutics, exegesis, word studies, in addition to helpful recommendations for outlining, introduction, and illustrations. I might add that this book is not light reading. What I mean by that is it will not be filled with much inspiration and the very brawn of your brain will be required to process through the steps that it recommends. However, if you can just grasp small concepts of what is being taught as far as the method is concerned it will help you to pay very close attention to the context of the passage and evaluate how the passage relates to the Bible as a whole.
The second book that I had to work through was in a seminary class. It was a very tedious book and it has also been reprinted with some very good additions. The book is by Bryan Chappell, Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon. Again this book is a textbook and is not given to very much inspiration as it is to the sheer brawn required of your brains. I have increasingly found that expository preaching requires much, much, much discipline. If you are full-time in ministry, it will require a lot of your mornings to be set aside for constant and progressive study. Chappell places on you six questions that must be answered in the preparation process of the expository message.
• What does the text mean?
• How do I know what the text means?
• What concerns caused the text to be written?
• What do we share in common with: a) those whom the text was written to; b) the person who wrote the text?
• How should people now respond to the truths of the text?
• What is the most effective way I can communicate the meaning of the text?
In addition to this, Chappell also helps with outlining and gathering your illustrations to assist with the preaching. The book is filled with numerous tables and diagrams that are also very helpful. One thing you will find that initially you will scoff at (at least I did) was when he emphasized the importance of diagramming Scriptures like you had to do in 7th Grade English. However, I have found that sometimes in determining the subject and predicate in the verse sheds great light on what the biblical writer was trying to say. Bear with me on this as I can hear you groaning from here!
Another tool that immensely helped me was a book by Stephen F. Olford. One reason that I appreciated this book so much was that it was much simpler than MacArthur’s and Chappell’s works. Olford’s book Anointed Expository Preaching was like moving from trigonometry to simple addition. It was refreshing in the way that he simplified the approach from an academic style to an inspirational level. He wrote about Selection of a Text, Investigation, Organization, Finalization, and finally the delivery of the message.
It was much more inspirational in tone. In fact, I want to share with you what Olford called the five “tests” of a call. He wrote that when God calls men to preach there are generally five areas that God will show a man whether or not he is called to preach:
• Do I meet the qualifications of a preacher as set forth by the Word of God? (Acts 9:15-16, 20; 22:14-15; 26:16-18)
• Have I the witness of the Spirit in my heart that God has called me? (Rom. 8:14; Gal. 1:15-16; 2 Tim. 1:8-11)
• Has the gift of the preacher become evident in my life and service? (1 Cor. 12:7)
• Has the Church recognized and confirmed my preaching gift? (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6-7)
• Has God used my preaching gift to the salvation of souls and the edification of the saints? (1 Cor. 9:2)
Olford’s approach is very good and in my estimation should you choose to start reading any of these books, Anointed Expository Preaching might be the best one to start with because of its simplicity. Another very good thing about this book is the extensive bibliography in the back. MacArthur’s and Chappell’s are also very good at this, as are the footnotes (which can be hidden treasures).
Harold Bryson’s Expository Preaching is another good tool that I appreciated because of its inspirational level. Although it is a textbook used in many seminaries, I found it was very helpful and not overly academic. This is one of the pitfalls that can happen when one starts to embrace the expository method. One can get so caught up in the background of the text and the nuances of the Greek that the congregation drowns in the details of the message. Bryson helps with this by giving you ideas of series of passages to work through. He has recommendations for Genesis, Proverbs, the Prophets, and the Gospels. His ideas on Acts were also very helpful when he lists “great” texts from Acts, “great” personalities from Acts, and “great” events in Acts. This book will be like water priming an old fashioned hand pump for the preacher’s mind.
A newer book that I have benefited from was written by Michael Fabarez entitled Preaching that Changes Lives. The greatest advantage that I found from this book was in the process of application of the message. Expository preaching must be more than just an information dump where the preacher gets all this biblical and historical data, then backs up his “dump-truck” to the pulpit and dumps all the material on the poor man in the pew. This sort of thing can give expository preaching a bad name. This is what Fabarez really works at with the application process. So what that Esau sold his birthright and the Samson got his hair cut and ended up grinding corn, what is the spiritual principle behind all of this? What does it matter that Cornelius was a devout man who prayed and gave alms, what is the spiritual aspect of Peter finding him? These are the sorts of things that can help you with turning expository preaching into a very livable theology.
Power In the Pulpit by Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix is another book that serves as a textbook style of help. It has steps that are carefully laid out in a 1-2-3 or A-B-C type plan that will help you to develop some solidly biblical messages that are true to context. It works with exegesis, hermeneutics, to help get you on the road of homiletics which is the actual delivery aspect of preaching the sermon.
On the next post, I will give you some of the commentaries and other books that have been helpful to me. Again, I have to warn you that if you determine to go down this path and really dig into Scripture, you are going to “spoil” yourself. You will find that very few modern writers will continue to have an appeal to you. Max Lucado, bless his heart, will become a distant memory. You will also see right through the foolishness of Irwin McManus, Bryan Maclaren, and Doug Pagitt. You will instead warm up to the solid writings of the Puritans, A. W. Tozer, Kenneth Weust, and a few others. Charismania things will lose their appeal to you and over time, your God will become far less sentimental than what He perhaps has been in the past. God is more concerned with the perfection of the saints than in giving possessions to the saints.
More to come. . . .