Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Expository Preaching II

There is a great void of expository preaching today in America's pulpits. It is not very often that I hear biblical preaching that is exceptional or even satisfactory, let alone expository in nature. I have to say that I am very disappointed in most of the preaching today. True expository messages are more difficult to prepare than any other type of messages, I do believe. Perhaps some pastor's just do not desire to put that much time and effort into the sermon or to give him the benefit of the doubt maybe he doesn't know the importance of it. I think it is fair to say that churches need pastors that will visit less and study more. When I hear an expository message delivered properly I cannot get enough of it. Why? because contained are the very words of God and not man.

Many times a preacher thinks he is preaching expositorally when he is not. Just because he slaps illiteration on the points of the sermon and they come from a passage of Scripture that is supposed to make a good expository message right? Not true! Now don't get me wrong the points of the message are to be memorable and should come from the biblical text. The all around beauty of true expository preaching is that God dictates the direction of the message and not man. John Stott said that an expository preacher bridges the past of Scripture (context) with the modern day world (application). Picture a bridge over a river.

The #1 reason I argue for expository preaching from the pulpit of our churches is that it is verse by verse from Scripture. God's Word is the authority and not the preacher's. What a thought, the Bible is a cherished tool in the hand of a preacher. I don't know about you, but I think there are enough preachers in the world who read a passage (s) of Scripture and forsake them and proceed to share his own thoughts and opinons; don't you? I pray you will not be one of them, but rather be found faithfully delivering expository messages.

As mentioned earlier, I fell in love with an article written by Steven J. Lawson to a magazine at Southern Seminary in the late 1990's entitled, The Ten How To's of Expository Preaching. In this article he outlines how to deliver an expository message. Listed are four more methods of his ten step process; for the other two see the previous post. Brothers, may you be encouraged to always preach the Word in season and out and don't tell them what their worldly itching ears may want to hear.

The Ten How-to’s of Expository Preaching
by Steven J. Lawson

Next, the expositor must interpret the passage using the literal, historical, grammatical approach. By literal, I mean the normal, or natural, meaning of words, being careful never to allegorize or spiritualize the text. By historical, I mean the author’s intent as he wrote to his original audience. By grammatical, I mean the understanding of the grammar, syntax and word studies in the passage. STEP In this process we build a bridge between the ancient world of the Bible and our contemporary culture. In preparing my sermons, I take an 8-1/2 by 11 inch pad of paper and record extensive notes using the following tools:

Use Language Tools. Because the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, reading the passage in the ancient languages will yield a greater understanding of the text. Key word studies, verb tenses and grammatical syntax will be paramount. A Greek and Hebrew dictionary will more clearly reveal a word’s meaning, and a lexicon will trace its use in various contexts. Just remember, in a sermon, Greek and Hebrew are like underwear: they add a lot of support, but you don’t want to let them show.

Consult Commentaries. After doing my own in-depth study, I read five to fifteen commentaries and expose myself to the findings of men more gifted than I who have wrestled with this particular passage. I compare my findings with other noted teachers and respected theologians in the body of Christ from church history and the present day. Likewise, I read other expository sermons and listen to tapes of other preachers expounding on the same text. Obviously, an expositor’s library is an indispensable asset.

Check Cross References. We must always interpret Scripture with Scripture. The Word never contradicts itself. One part of the Bible never teaches anything contrary to another part. Therefore, we must turn to cross references to insure accuracy of interpretation.

Investigate Biblical Background Resources. The historicity of a passage often illuminates its meaning. Bible encyclopedias and dictionaries contain helpful articles on matters of historical significance. The culture of the ancient world was vastly different from today’s society. Thus, we must understand the milieu of Bible times, whether it be the Jewish, Greek or Roman culture, to grasp the meaning of the passage. Also, understanding the geography of the Middle East can be helpful in unlocking the meaning of a passage. Along this line, a Bible atlas is often an extremely helpful tool in understanding a text.

Now, we want to take our individual discoveries and collected observations and begin to organize them into a written manuscript that follows a verse by verse progression through the selected passage. Our sermon notes should fall into a sequential pattern that follows a logical train of thought. To accomplish that I:

Construct a Preaching Outline. My initial outline now becomes a more polished outline that will help listeners follow me through the passage. A good outline is like the skeleton of the human body—that upon which the flesh and meat of the sermon are hung. A good outline may illiterate, rhyme or parallel in some way the other points so as to aid the listener. A good rule of thumb is: the shorter the wording of the homiletical point the better.

Incorporate the Research. I now arrange my exegetical findings in a systematic order that lines up under the appropriate point in my homiletical outline. For those who use a computer, this is a simply process of moving around copy. I still write my research by hand and use a photo copier to strip in my exegesis. I restate my findings in words that are more colloquial or more easily understood. Sometimes, communicating through analogies, metaphors and similes is very helpful to convey the truth.

Add Transitions. I now sew together the various parts of the sermon with the silky threads of smooth transitions as I connect one point with another. These transitions should show logical connections and contain summary statements which serve as the glue that binds the exposition together. Likewise, a good transition can also create interest for the next point by asking thought provoking questions.

Sermon preparation is never complete until the text is applied to the individual lives of my hearers. I always must ask myself, does this truth relate to their lives? What does God require of them?

In my seminary classes, Haddon Robinson encouraged us to picture five or six members of our congregation seated around the table in our pastor’s study. Each of these people should represent a cross section of those to who we preach. Ask yourself, what does this text have to say to a successful businessman? A single parent? A college student? A retired grandparent? A young couple contemplating a move? How does this Scripture impact their lives?

At this point, I even manuscript my application to force myself to be accurate and relevant. I don’t want to “wind” the application any more than I want to be3 unprepared with the interpretation. This requires being “in touch” with the people to whom I preach, knowing their struggles, temptations and influences they face. Likewise, reading books, magazines and newspapers will reveal the current trends and tensions of the world in which they live.

I believe the best place to position application is to sprinkle it throughout the message. Each major movement of the sermon should drip with relevancy. If I regularly save all my application for the end of the sermon, my listeners could learn to tune me out while I am teaching the “meat” of the passage and tune back in for the conclusion and the perceived applicable truth. Consequently, I choose to weave “action points” throughout the entirety of my sermon.

Sermon illustrations are like open windows which allow outside light to be shed upon the passage enlightening its meaning. A good illustration can create interest, capture attention, explain a truth, motivate powerfully or insure that the message is unforgettable.

I prefer biblical illustrations—in other words, Scripture illustrating Scripture—because they carry greater authority to reinforce the point. Also, by illustrating from other biblical texts, I can teach Scripture as I illustrate and introduce my congregation to other biblical passages. At the same time, all knowledge—whether it be history, medicine, sports, culture or current events—is available to the preacher as a potential resource with which to illustrate. Likewise, appropriate personal experiences can help connect with and endear us to our audience as we illustrate the passage.

A good illustration will be relevant and memorable. Just make sure it doesn’t overshadow the biblical point you’re making. In other words, an illustration must support the truth but never take the place of, nor compete with, the truth in the minds of the hearers.

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