I begin this fourth post in encouraging you toward expository preaching with thanks for all the e-mails and even some comments on the blog that I have received concerning this type of preaching. It has been quite interesting to me to see the apparent desire coming from a lot of men concerning the transitioning of their own preaching styles in serving their churches weekly.
My brother, Mark, some years ago aptly picked up on the homiletic keys that some preachers were guilty of. He told me that he had heard a lot of preaching where the man picked a text and then pitched a fit. That homiletic plan is literally called “pick and pitch.” We heard that mostly at some, uh, well I need not tell you where we heard that as the geography might blow some cover. I am quick to add that Mark or I ever heard that style of preaching from our pastor, Joe Patterson. Brother Patterson was always well prepared on Sundays and Wednesdays (mid-week) were always times that routinely we went through portions of Scripture that helped the Church.
I have received a number of e-mails concerning this series concerning expository preaching. One of those men who sent me an e-mail was J. R. Ensey, who was the president of Texas Bible College, during my days there (1989-1992). What he did not know was that I was going to use some of his advice to our Senior Homiletics class in the spring of 1992. I have asked him for his permission to use one of his e-mails to me in an effort to continue to encourage you to simply committing yourself to verse-by-verse exposition of Scripture. His e-mail follows:
Thanks for the subject of your blog. I have encouraged expository preaching for many years. It is the most "satisfying" preaching for the saints of God. They feel "full" when they leave. Rather than going to the Word for our teaching, we feel pressed to find that "nugget" that no one has heard of that will make us sound smart. More often than not, that nugget is some form of subjective typology, since we can put our own spin on the OT types and shadows. "Preach the word" should mean more than alluding to some passage in the Scripture. As you described your experience, I thought of how typical it is...we get a thought or idea and try to tie it to some verse, often taken out of context to fit our thought.
I miss expository preaching in my present capacity, except when I am home and teaching the adult class. It is not what is expected when you are out on the road, although messages that elicit as much response as any other are the verse-by-verse expositions of Genesis 1, Psalm 1 and Psalm 23. You can cover so many vital topics in those passages.
Expository preaching builds people, and people build churches. The word gets around if a preacher is feeding his people. One of the primary reasons for dissatisfaction with pastoral leadership centers around "not getting fed." As a presbyter and official over the years, I have heard that often. Hungry sheep will eat the wool off of one another's back.
Feed people a solid diet of the Word and they will be happy. Fast food and sugary desserts inhibit the maturing process, and usually causes outbreaks of pimples...a pretty good sign of adolescence.
Again, thanks for encouraging other young ministers to "preach the Word"!
Prior to receiving his e-mail, I had already resorted to my old Homiletics notes (handwritten) and the Homiletics notebook (prepared by Brother Ensey and Brother Kelsey Griffin) to find some useful helps toward expository preaching.
One of the things that I found there was the emphasis that Brother Ensey placed on us about not allowing yourself to get on “hobby-horses” and ride them into the ground. Some pastors only preach on prayer, others only on revival, others only on evangelism, others on faith, and others on encouragement. Whether a pastor is willing to admit it or not, despite the fact that he may be praying and getting a “fresh word” from God (please understand that I am not saying this disparagingly) often his preaching will tend to follow certain “cycles.” Furthermore when a church is having problems or difficulties, if we aren’t careful, great distraction can occur from the real purpose of the pulpit and we will get sidetracked and end up hopelessly chasing rabbits down trails in hopes of finding their burrows. Rabbit-trail preaching is sometimes good but when it becomes the norm, very superficial understanding of spiritual things. Furthermore rabbit-trail preaching often turns the focus of the sermon on the man who is preaching (which in my opinion is idolatry because the focus becomes man-centered instead of God-ward) because he is almost always the hero of the sermon.
From those notes, I list the advantages of expository preaching:
It places supreme emphasis on the Bible.
It makes for a broad understanding of the Scriptures as a whole.
It provides an opportunity to speak on many areas of Scripture that are often neglected.
It keeps the preacher from “harping” on one subject.
It enables the preacher to deal with specific evils and sin.
It furnishes a life-time source of preaching material.
It conforms to the biblical ideal of preaching.
So where does one start. I have covered this lightly in a previous post but now from the Homiletics notes, let me supply you with a list that can serve as a jumping off point. However, don’t let this list fool you, if you start doing expository preaching understand that it is exacting, demanding, and time-consuming. You are not going to be able to throw it together a quick stew of Scripture and make it work so to speak.
John 1:1-5; 1:6-14; 1:35-51
1 Corinthians 1:18-29
1 Corinthians 11:23-24
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
1 Corinthians 15:1-10
2 Corinthians 5:1-8; 5:18-21
Ephesians 1:1-14; 1:15-23
Ephesians 6:10-20 (This was my first passage to work through.)
Philippians 2:5-11; 2:12-18
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
1 Thessalonians 5:14-24
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
1 Timothy 1:12-17
1 Timothy 4:12-16
1 Timothy 6:1-12
2 Timothy 1:6-14
2 Timothy 2:1-7
2 Timothy 3:14-17
2 Timothy 4:5-8
Hebrews 4:12-14; 4:14-16
Hebrews 12:1-4; 12:18-24
James 1:1-7; 1:12-16
1 Peter 1:11-12
1 Peter 2:11-25
1 Peter 4:10-11
2 Peter 1:1-11
1 John 1:1-11 (Been there and done it!)
1 John 3:1-3 (Been there and done it! And everything between these two passages.)
1 John 4:7-12 (Not there yet but will be!)
1 John 5:9-13 (Likewise!!!)
In addition to this list of passages, Brother Ensey also told us that in his two pastorates (North Carolina and Texas) that he would take a long list from “A” to “Z” and would look at subjects and force himself to study through the topics and preach them. Brother Griffin in his two pastorates in Wisconsin also did something similar to this. If you choose to do this, Nave’s Topical Bible is a good starting place. While I would encourage you to do this, I also caution you to be careful that you do not fall into the process of entirely topical preaching. Force yourself to dig into the meat of Scripture and do the word studies, finding the subject of the verses, and so on.
If you are interested in the two passages I have worked through a) Ephesians 6:10-20 which I called the Believer’s Warfare or b) 1st John which I am not working into the beginning of chapter 3, I would be happy to send you the notes. Zip me an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send them to you.
More to come. . . .