"2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV) All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,"
It’s not uncommon when I speak on Sunday mornings and evenings that at least one parishioner when leaving shakes my hand and shares how much they enjoyed or appreciated, “Today’s lesson,” in reference to the message just preached. Other pastors have shared with me over the last 25 years similar stories how one or two of their congregants are always complementary each Sunday. I, like many of my pastor friends, am always thankful for their kind words and humbled by the fact that God chose me to be the conduit for His message. With these encouraging words I attempt to convey to these individuals that if anything good comes from Rod West it is not me but God who lives in and through me. I chose many years ago Philippians 1:6 as my life verse which states: “being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
What often amazes me with the statement, “Today’s lesson,” is how many church members view expositional preaching as some sort of advanced Sunday school class. Members in various churches where I’ve served through the years have told me they didn’t consider my style of delivery as preaching, which just happens to be expositional in nature. Frequently I follow their statement with two or three questions.
Normally my first question is, “What do you consider preaching?” The answers are usually long and disjointed which often ends with, “I don’t really know how to explain it pastor.” My follow-up question is typically, “Well who do you consider to be the two greatest preachers in the Bible?” As expected these answers vary but rarely do I hear the names of Christ Jesus and the Apostle Paul. My third question, “What do you consider to be the style or manner in which Christ Jesus and the Apostle Paul spoke?” By no means is this a scientific poll but greater than 90% of the time I would say their answer is “teaching.”
The word exposition means to “expound or explain.” So expositional preaching simply means to explain the Scriptures from a historical and grammatical context in order to bring understanding to the listener. In a sense expositional preaching is teaching. The main goal of this type of preaching is to state accurately what a particular passage of Scripture says, to a particular group of people, at a particular time in history. Once this goal is achieved, and only then, can we begin to draw out the principles and applications that are meaningful for Christians in this day and age. Some of you may have heard expositional preaching described as, “book by book, verse by verse, line by line, and word by word.” This is a simple explanation that often satisfies but in no way conveys the depth of work and study associated with this style of preaching.
This type of preaching is easily seen in Paul’s letters, particularly in the Book of Romans as he writes as a polemicist. And even though many would suggest Christ Jesus was more of a storyteller I would beg to differ; He would often follow His parables with the expounding of Old Testament passages and explanations given to His disciples in private. Second Timothy is a Pastoral Epistle in which the Apostle Paul encourages Timothy, his protégé, to follow this mode of instruction. Note the following verse: 2 Timothy 4:2 (ESV) “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”
So what’s my point? My point is that without this type of preaching from the pulpits of our Churches in America we are destined to die. Our young people are walking away from the Church by droves every year because they have not been taught the doctrines which are foundational to our faith.
It appears many pastors and Church leaders are afraid to tackle the tough questions that these young people have in regards to science and ethics and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because many of our pastors and Church leaders have become lazy in their studies, or possibly they are intimidated by scientist and other secular leaders with advanced degrees. I’m constantly reading trying to stay abreast of not what only is afoot culturally, but also new scientific findings in order to answer the questions that I know my listeners will eventually ask. I can only speak for myself but I’m sure many other pastors feel as I do, and I don’t care how many advanced degrees a person has because I am confident The Word of God is able to stand on its own.
I realize pastors are often pulled in many directions because of the multiple responsibilities and duties we shoulder, but our first priority as a minister of the Gospel should be our devotion to prayer and study in order to edify the body of Christ. Clearly the Apostles of the early Church set the standard for pastors today from a priority standpoint: Acts 6:4 (ESV) “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
I want to encourage you to do three things. One, take a few minutes each day to pray for your pastor/pastors and that he/they will preach and teach the Word of God with boldness and without regret. Two, encourage your pastor/s and teachers to go beyond the status quo and dig deep into the Scriptures in order to edify the body of Christ. And three watch Ken Ham’s video below which is only three minutes long and relates too much of what I’ve written about this week.
Blessings in the Name of Christ,
Spiritual Junk Food
Back in 2003 an independent film maker named Morgan Spurlock carried out an experiment where he ate nothing but items from McDonalds at every meal for thirty days. His purpose was to bring attention to the obesity problem in America while demonstrating the health dangers associated with consuming vast amounts of fast food. In one month Mr. Spurlock gained 25 lbs. which then took another 14 months to lose. The toll of eating nothing but junk food for a month affected him both physically and psychologically.
To be fair, Spurlock did go to the extreme consuming as much as 5000 calories a day and not exercising which obviously skewed his findings. This approach also didn’t make the executives of McDonalds very happy, nor a great many customers. Most of us realize that too much junk food makes us fatter, lethargic, less productive, and over the long haul just plain unhealthy.
A few weeks ago as I was listening to a sermon on the internet I realized that a lot of the messages we get today seem to be filling but not very satisfying. Let me explain. There are thousands of messages recorded each week from pulpits across America which are available on the internet, cable and satellite tv. Each say they proclaim the Word of God but clearly there is less “Word” and more homespun stories, lots of applications but no exposition.
As I listened to one pastor recently, he read a portion of Scripture then never explained what the passage meant. He jumped from one story to the next like a gifted trapeze artist moving from one apparatus to another. This minister of the Gospel didn’t miss a beat as he tied one tale to another in his topical approach. I kept wondering, “When are you going to come back to the passage?” At the end of his sermon he made one reference to his original passage – the end. His stories were entertaining I suppose but left me thinking what was it I just heard? Have I grown in any way by listening to this message for the last thirty minutes? His entire topical message was even out context to what the author of the passage had written.
I believe the longer a church feeds on topical preaching the less healthy she will be. Congregations that are fed topically week to week become fatter, more lethargic, and less productive. Our people may have the appearance of being fully grown, but inwardly many are still babes in Christ because their growth is stunted through malnutrition.
Don’t get me wrong. I do believe one can take a topic and deliver it expositionally, but this doesn’t seem to be the norm. The healthiest churches feed their people book by book, line by line, and word by word. At least that’s what I believe!
Christian, husband, father, pastor2pastors, biblical counselor, author, friend, and lover of God & His Word!
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