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Why I Prefer Expository Preaching Over Series Preaching

Expository preaching is the art in preaching verse by verse through the Bible.  Typically the Bible teacher will spend their time reading commentaries, examining the context over and over again, re-reading the text over and over again and meditating on the Word of God until the text is their own.  They begin to preach the text by showing how this section of Scripture fits not just within the context in which it is found but also how it fits into the overall plan and purposes of God.  Expository preaching seeks to teach the Word of God, to explain the Scriptures, and to show New Testament disciples who Christ is in the text and how it exalts Him.

Series preaching has become the new passion for evangelicals.  In my city I know of only a few expository churches.  Nearly all the churches in my area are series sermons and almost all are topical in nature.  The topics vary.  For example, a large Pentecostal church near us is preaching on heaven right now.  I suppose they are basing it off the horrible book, Heaven is for Real.  I hope not.  Another church is doing a series on Samson.  Another church is doing a series called “Real Life.”  Another church is doing their “summer” series and focusing on “Faith and Family.”

Sermon series are popular for several reasons all of which would be pragmatic.  Some preachers buy their sermon series’ from people such as Rick Warren.  Some steal sermons from famous preachers such as Ed Young.  Some will simply read a book and borrow concepts from that book.  Leonard Ravenhill use to say that he could listen to a preacher for five minutes and discern if his sermon came from God or a book.  Some preachers will do sermon series’ because they actually have a sermon committee who helps them plan preaching.  They will take a calendar and plan out their preaching.  Other churches have given surveys of their churches or even their area to see what people want the preacher to preach on and then he prepares sermons based on the surveys.  Other preachers just copy what the more successful churches are doing in hopes that they too can be that big.  Again, pragmatism is the dominant rule here.

Expository sermons are not popular for the above reasons and more.  For one, expository preaching requires you to work the text.  Sadly, few preachers seem to want to do that.  For instance, John MacArthur spends nearly 40 hours a week on his sermons.  Now obviously most churches are not as big as MacArthur’s church and MacArthur has the luxury of being able to have a staff that allows him to prepare that much.  Most do not.  Sermon series’ are easier to prepare than expository sermons and they require little from the preacher other than his ability to speak.  Expository sermons require labor in the Word, labor in word studies, labor in reading Bible commentaries, labor in developing the outline of the text and working through the text with the people.  In short, expository sermons do not feed the weak preacher and his desire to be “relevant” but instead force the preacher to actually wrestle with the Word of God.  Something that is not always easy nor fun (Hebrews 4:12-13) especially if the preacher is living a shallow life.

Expository sermons also typically drive off the goats.  Let’s face the fact that most churches are full of goats.  They are not following Christ at all during the week and show up either thinking that they are pleasing God by being at church or they just come because of habit.  Yet their hearts are far from God.  They don’t pray, don’t spend time in His presence during the week, never share their faith even to the own family members, and they don’t even think about God much during the week unless they use His name in vain or they get into trouble.  These goats love sermon series preaching.  They love having their ears tickled by the shallowness of the preaching (2 Timothy 4:3-4).  The last thing they want to hear is an expositor opening the Word of God to them and confronting them in their sins.

For the sheep, however, expository preaching is refreshing and it feeds them (John 21:15; 1 Peter 2:1-3).  Sheep long to move from milk to meat (Hebrews 5:11-6:3).  Sheep long to hear the voice of God speaking to them from His Word (John 8:47; 10:27).  Sheep are not sitting under godly leadership (Hebrews 13:7) because it is cool or relevant but they long to know Jesus and bless His name and make Him known among the nations.  Expository preaching opens the Word of God to the sheep and allows the Holy Spirit to do His deep work of convicting and sanctification (John 17:17).  Expository preaching develops the sheep to love Jesus more and more and to love His Word more and more and to seek to see Him in all the Scriptures.

By the way, an expositor can do sermon series’ based on their studies.  For example, one could find so many sermon series’ by preaching verse by verse through the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7.  One could literally spend many mouths camped out in Matthew 5-7 working through the text.

My prayer is that God will raise up more expositors of His Word.  We have thousands of churches that are pragmatic churches focused on numbers and on money but oh to have godly churches that are focused on the glory of God and living out the New Testament.  Oh to have men of God who are broken by the Word of God and long to make known God’s Word to both the lost and to the redeemed.  Oh to have men of God who labor in prayer and in study over the Word of God and who are passionate to make known the truth of God verse by verse to the people of God.  Oh to have churches that love Jesus more than anything and who are not interested in worldly results, milking goats, and living off stale bread.

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/29/2014 at 1:39 PM

7 Responses

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  1. Amen!

    Gene Brode, Jr.

    05/29/2014 at 9:57 PM

  2. Can you give me one example of expository preaching in the Word itself. There are examples of preaching in the Word (Hebrews being one very long one), is even one of them of the type you advocate so vigorously? By the by, I agree with your assessment of the book, Heaven Is for Real, just awful.

    stephenwinters

    05/30/2014 at 8:24 AM

    • Preaching in the Bible was radically different from preaching after the close of the New Testament canon. In the Bible, preaching was revelatory and explanation of the revelations. With the complete Bible (Hebrews 1:1-3), we must preach the revealed truth of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and if we believe that all of Scripture is vital, we must focus on the entire Word of God. The true way to do this is by teaching verse by verse through the Bible.

      However, our primary example is the Lord Jesus who showed us how to teach (Matthew 5-7) by appealing to Scripture and teaching it as the final authority full of the power of the Spirit.

      I hope that helps. I recommend Dr. John MacArthur’s book, Rediscovering Expository Preaching for more on this subject.

      • That radical difference in preaching is not attested in the word itself, nor is the practice of expository preaching even remotely hinted at in its commands concerning preaching. These are ideas that have arisen after the word was written, i.e. man’s idea about the word rather than what the word says itself. So what authority can seeing that radical difference or prescribing expository preaching actually possess? If our primary example for teaching and preaching is Jesus (I’m not arguing that it isn’t), we can say he appealed to scripture but we certainly cannot say he did so expositorily (not at least with a straight face). Can preaching can be true to the word and true to the Spirit without being expository? I would have to say yes, in which case the case for expository preaching being “the” way to preach evaporates.

        stephenwinters

        05/31/2014 at 11:28 AM

      • The primary duty of the Bible teacher is to explain Scripture. It is not to entertain people. It is not to give new revelation. We have the complete Word of God in our Bibles and if we believe that the Word of God is in fact inerrant and infallible, we should seek to explain it all. Each word counts because it has been given to us by the Holy Spirit. This makes expository preaching the best way to preach since it explains Scripture verse by verse. Further, if we believe that the primary way that a person is saved and sanctified is by the Word of God then we should heed this and preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2).

        Our authority is found in the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and when we fail to teach it we are promoting that our ideas, our creeds, or our feelings is what counts. Expository preaching is Word-centered preaching because the focus of expository preaching is always on explaining Scripture. The focus is not the topic (such as in topical preaching) or our thoughts about ideas but the focus is on teaching verse by verse the Word of God to the sheep of God.

        Again, I don’t doubt that verse by verse teaching is not found in the Bible. Those in the Bible are either giving revelation or explanation of the revelations given. The exception to this would be Hebrews but even there we find revelation since this came to us from the Spirit. The modern preacher is not like this. We are not giving any new revelations since there are no new revelations since the Bible is the complete, inerrant, and infallible Word of God. Our job now is to explain what God has already faithfully revealed and to make it known to the nations. Expository preaching focuses on this by focusing on the revealed Word as the source of truth, as the focal point, and keeps the Bible teacher focused on the Scriptures and not our own thoughts.

  3. That was and is excellent! I am blessed from what you’ve written here. Thank you.

    Wally

    05/30/2014 at 10:40 PM


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