Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Interview on Expository Preaching

The following is an interview that was requested by Greg Stone who is one of the editors of the Indiana Bible College Perspectives magazine.  I thought it might be helpful on the Barnabas Blog.


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1.    Briefly tell us about yourself and your ministry.

The apostolic Pentecostal church is all that I have ever known.  I grew up in a home missions’ settings and was kept very involved by my parents (who were not in the pastorate but just very good saints) as the years went by.  I am now the pastor of the church that I grew up in.  I have been married for almost 33 years and have three children, two sons who are married and are ministers, and a daughter who is involved in ministry as well.  I was bivocational much of my early years in ministry and worked as an RN in various areas such as critical care and cath labs and I have to admit that some of my approach to both preaching and teaching was influenced by all of the years of working with physicians and other health care workers. 

As far as religious education goes, I graduated from Texas Bible College in 1989.  I then went on to a conservative seminary nearby and graduated with a Bachelors in Theology and a Master of Ministry with a focus on expository preaching.  I continue to be very diligent about continuing education by attending workshops, conferences, and online seminars through a variety of outlets. 

I currently serve as a presbyter on the Alabama District Board.  I have been responsible for our district licensing seminar for a number of years and teach at one of our state campuses for Purpose Institute.  In the past, I served as the district Sunday School secretary, Senior Bible Quizmaster, and as a regional executive presbyter for the UPCI as well.   

2.    Define exegetical preaching - how does it differ from the average sermon we hear from our pulpits?

I believe the kind of preaching that I do now is more expository than exegetical which is simply following the flow of Scripture and allowing it to shape the sermon.  It differs from the average sermon by moving away from a topical style, the so-called “thought” preaching, the testimonial sermon, and those that do injustice to the context of the passage. 

3.    Why is this kind of preaching so important?  How does this type preaching help a church?

My strong belief in this kind of preaching is shaped very much by the commands that we are given in Scripture to simply preach the Word (2 Tim. 4:1-2).  Paul was clear when he told the Ephesian elders that he had preached whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) during his stay at Ephesus.  This kind of preaching is of utmost importance particularly in a day that we are being overwhelmed by biblical illiteracy.  This kind of preaching helps a church to see the overall scope of the flow of the Bible.  I have used the analogy of taking an anatomy and physiology class at a local college.  The professor works through the human body in systems.  He may start with the bones and then go to the muscles and follow through the rest of the body by each system.  He will not spend the first class on the brain, the next class of the GI system, and the third class on the cardiovascular system.  If anatomy and physiology was taught in that manner, no one would ever understand the way the body functions, however by systematically working through each system, the students can see how individual parts work and then how they work in conjunction with other systems.  Preaching that is shotgun style makes it very difficult for people to pick up on how God really is going about His work in the world.  I strongly believe the enemy loves for preachers to operate in this manner because ignorance keeps people questioning the Word (Gen. 3:1-13) and they are tossed about by every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14) which causes spiritual immaturity because they remain children.

It has helped our church tremendously in that it has caused them to become Bible students and Bible readers.  I want to do everything I can as a pastor to encourage people to not only read their Bible but to know their Bible.    

4.    Explain the process you go through in developing an exegetical sermon.

There is a learning curve initially to find your grip on this style of preaching.  Two books that I read approximately 20 years ago made a huge impact to help me to come to where I am today with this process.  Rediscovering Expository Preaching by John MacArthur and Expository Preaching by Harold Bryson were very instrumental in moving me toward what I do now.  Just briefly to describe the process would be that I observe paragraph markings to help me to see the context.  I also believe in the 20/20 rule which means that the twenty verses preceding and the twenty verses following whatever text I am preaching from helps to set the context.  To pull of verse out of context and preach it to a congregation is, in my thoughts, the height of idolatry because it moves the preacher into a place of saying that his thoughts on the passage are more important than what God really intended for it to say.  I work very hard to make sure that what I am preaching is contextually accurate.  At the end of the day, a faithful expositor is going to read the text, explain the text, and apply the text. 

In a nutshell, I read the paragraph (or even a single verse) in the Bible and pick out the subject, verb, and other parts of speech.  I then start trying to get an outline of the passage in two ways, either by developing it myself, or using an outline Bible such as Wilmington’s.  Once the outline has been developed, the message will preach itself.  For instance, in Acts 20:28-32, the key words are “heed,” “feed,” and “watch.”  That is the call that Paul gave to the Ephesian elders.  Another example is found in 1 Timothy 6:11-12 by looking at the marks of a man of God.  He is marked by what he flees from, follows after, and fights for.  Please understand that there is far more that goes into these simple outlines but that is generally what I am looking for when I develop a message.  Finally, it is important for the preacher to make sure that he has applications to everyday life which are important for those who hear the Word. 

5.    Why do you feel some preachers shy away from this kind of preaching?

I believe that one of the reasons that some preachers shy away from this kind of preaching is because they have never seen the power of this style of preaching.  Granted it is hard work to preach this way because you have to be immersed in the Scriptures constantly.  But perhaps the other reason that preachers shy away from this kind of preaching is because of the lack of discipline in their personal lives to do this kind of work.  Good preaching is hard work!  One of my Bible college professors at Texas Bible College said something that I have never forgotten, “Poor preaching is a heavy cross for a church to have to bear.” 

6.    What has this kind of preaching done for you personally as a preacher?

The greatest thing it has done for me is to show me great reverence for God and His Word.  By being in the Scriptures so regularly to prepare to preach, I have become very impressed with the thought of how powerfully effective that God’s Word is.  The higher the view of Scripture, the higher the view of God.  This kind of preaching has taught me how to pray the Scriptures in a literal way as well.  More times than not as I have worked through passages to preach, I have been convicted to confess sin and pray for God to cleanse my own heart so that my life is pleasing to God.  Suffice it to say that if a preacher has not only studied his way through the sermon but prayed his way through it as well, it will have a tremendous impact on those who hear him preach.  Lastly, I would say that it keeps me learning new material from the Bible.  One of the drawbacks with topical preaching is the preacher is generally rearranging material he already knows.  Expository preaching causes you to have to dig into the text and you are constantly learning new things about the Word. 

7.    Are there any dangers or negatives to this type of preaching?  Anything one should be careful NOT to do?

There are two dangers that weigh on my mind that generally need to be avoided.  First, don’t let expository preaching became a “data dump.”  This happens when you are like a dump truck and back up to the pulpit and dump out all that you have dug out in the study the previous week on the congregation.  It is not important about all the details of the Jebusites, Perizzites, Hivites, Canaanites and all the other “ites” you find in the study.  Be careful that you do not overload your preaching with exegetical material that does not matter.  Secondly, don’t allow expository preaching to become a lecture, there must be some fire in the pulpit!  We are not lecturers but rather preachers!   

8.    If someone wanted to do more expository preaching, do you have any good books to recommend to help them get started? 

The previous two that were mentioned by MacArthur and Bryson are very good.  On a personal note about those two books, I read both of those books when I was still working in a cath lab.  I would take them to work with me and the days I was on call, I had to stay at the hospital in the evenings until we were certain no other cases had to be done and I would read while I was waiting.  Both of these books are heavily marked up as they have been re-read over the years.  But also Anointed Expository Preaching by Stephen Olford, Preaching That Changes Lives by Michael Fabarez, Between Two Worlds by John Stott, Preaching and Preachers by D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Planning Your Preaching by Stephen Rummage, Preaching with Bold Assurance by Herschel York, are just a few of very helpful volumes on preaching.   

9.    If pastors or ministers had questions about this topic, do you mind if they contacted you?

I would be more than happy to help in any way that I can!  I have a blog (although somewhat neglected in the last couple of years) that is full of book recommendations and some writing on a variety of ministry/preaching related matters.  Some helpful things can be found there (https://barnabas14blog.blogspot.com/).  I can also be emailed at philipharrelson@gmail.com.  Finally, I have a large shared Dropbox folder that is full of Bible studies, sermon notes, and sermon series that demonstrate the way that I preach through a variety of texts.  You are more than welcome to have access to them if you will send me an email.  As a point of information, I do not sell my notes per se but I never decline Amazon gift cards to help me continue to build a library J. 


3 comments:

James Bigelow said...

Very helpful. I wish more preachers would use the expository method of preaching.

Heilda Chipmman said...

Years ago I know I heard Brother Jeff Arnold mention some study books he used. I have tried to find that sermon again. But I have hundreds of his sermons to go through. Do you know what they might be? I think they are like commentaries but maybe more modern.
Thank you
Heilda Chipman

Heilda Chipmman said...

Many years ago I heard Brother Jeff Arnold mention some study books he used. I think they were modern. Maybe in the 70's I heard this. I have hundreds of his sermons on tapes, CDs and don't remember which sermon it was.

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