Thursday, October 19, 2006

Expository Preaching III

Expository Preaching, what makes it so much greater than other type of sermons? I believe the answer to this question is that these are powerful, life transforming sermons because they come directly from God's Word given by a man that should be full of the Holy Spirit.

I have done some reading on expository preaching. John MacArthur's and the Master's College book called Rediscovering Expository Preaching will always be at the top of my list. Also, John MacArthur and the Master's Seminary put a book out last year on biblical preaching. Another one that stands out is called Power In The Pulpit by Jerry Vines and James Shaddax. Of course Steven J. Lawson's book, Famine In The Land.

The reason I wanted to post Steven J. Lawson's article entitled Ten How to's of Expository Preaching written in the late 1990's to a Southern Seminary magazine is because I do not believe that I have seen as good of a treatment of expository preaching with such few words. Dr. Lawson does an exceptional job of outlining it.

I posted six how to's yesterday and here are the other four; totaling ten. If you need the others please see the other two previous posts.

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

Now that the main body of the message has been constructed, we are ready to write the introduction. Think of the introduction as the porch of a house. Proportionally, a porch is smaller than the house itself, yet it serves to provide easy access for all guests to enter the main structure. How strange a house would look if the front porch were too large, or worse, it if were larger than the house itself. Too large a porch would draw too much attention to itself. Rather, it should compliment the beauty of the house. In the same way, the introduction should be large enough to orient the listener to the sermon but small enough not to distract from the main body of the message.

This may be done through various means such as the use of illustration, humor, current events, a striking quote, asking questions, relating a personal experience, describing a hypothetical situation, raising a life-related problem, or any number of other means. Never forget: recruiting eager listeners for the sermon is the goal.

I agree with the oft-repeated three “I’s” of a good introduction: interest, involvement and identification. Ideally, the introduction should create interest, engage involvement or cause the listener to identify personally with the speaker of the subject matter. After the introduction, the preacher ought to be able to sit down and the congregation want him to get back up and finish the rest of the sermon.
Last words ought to be lasting words. The conclusion serves as a final “fork-in-the-road” calling the listener to pursue one of two courses of action based upon the truth proclaimed. Either the hearer will follow the biblical path just laid out or he will reject it. The conclusion should answer the question, “As a result of this message, what does God want the listener to do?” An effective conclusion should either, summarize the main truths, specify application, motivate, confront, challenge the will, encourage or comfort.

I like to think of the conclusion as a pilot landing an airplane. Here is the successful “touch down” of the sermon upon the runway of the listener’s heart. Every sermon must conclude with a clear and motivating call to action.

At this point, the manuscript should be complete. The introduction, main body and conclusion have been written. We now want to review our sermon notes to evaluate the general flow of the message as a whole.

Ask yourself: Is the sermon material under each homiletic point equally distributed? Is the introduction too long or too short? Are there enough illustrations? Is application well distributed? Will the opening lines “hook” the listener? Is there balance and symmetry before the main points? Is a section top heavy and need to be redistributed? Do I have too many points? Do the transitions flow?

After the sermon manuscript is on paper, it must also be indelibly written upon my mind and heart. Of course, this internalization has occurred throughout the entire process of developing the sermon. What I have studied and written must be fully rooted and grounded into my own life. I must become one with my sermon—married if you will. Regarding the truth of the message, I must know it, feel it and live it if I am to deliver it effectively.

My entire being—mind, emotion and will—must be engaged with my sermon. With my mind, I must become intimately acquainted with my manuscript, refreshing my memory with the substance of its truth. With my emotions, I must feel deeply the truth to be preached. And with my will, I must personally obey the message before I can ask others to act upon it.

In the final analysis, the best method of internalizing one’s sermon notes is to pray through them, offering each specific truth to God for his approval and preaching the message, as it were, to myself asking God to make it real in my own life.

The anticipated moment of delivering the sermon has now come as the expositor stands before the congregation in the presence of God. Every preacher will develop his own method of delivery whether he reads his notes, recites them word-for-word from memory, uses them as a launching pad in a more “free form” communication or preaches without notes after thoroughly reviewing them.

Personally, I believe the last two methods are the best options. I bring my notes into the pulpit and use them in an extemporaneous fashion, trusting that God will enable me to “go beyond” my notes during the sermon. This allows the Holy Spirit to use all my preparation to the maximum, yet with freedom and liberty as He guides me spontaneously through the sermon and its outline.

As the Spirit of God fills and controls me, my facial expressions, hand gestures, eye contact and voice inflection will communicate naturally—actually, supernaturally. These external aspects of sermon delivery should be the dynamic result of God working through my own personality and temperament, not something theatrically rehearsed nor intentionally imitated from another preacher. We want to avoid what on preacher wrote in the margin of his notes, “Weak point: yell here!” The goal is to be genuine.

How long should the sermon last? By and large, an expository sermon will take longer than a topical message because more attention will be given to the specifics of the text, i.e., historical background, word studies, cross references, flow of thought and the like. Rarely can a preacher do all this in 25 to 30 minutes and, at the same time, illustrate and apply the truth. I believe this requires a bare minimum of 35 minutes, otherwise theological fiber and doctrinal clarity will be sacrificed leaving the congregation deprived of the meat of the Word. In my pulpit, I shoot for 40 minutes.

Following each of these ten essential steps of expository preaching requires supernatural energy and divine enlightenment. Thus, we must be ever mindful that it is ultimately the Spirit of God who grips and equips the preacher.

May we hear again the stirring words of the greatest Baptist preacher who ever lived, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who said,

We want again Luthers, Calvins, Bunyans, Whitefields, men fit to mark ears, whose names breathe terror in our foemen’s ears. We have dire need of such. Whence will they come to us? They are the gifts of Jesus Christ to the Church, and will come in due time. He has power to give us back again a golden age of preachers, a time as fertile of great divines and mighty ministers as was the Puritan age, and when the good old truth is once more preached by men whose lips are touched as with a live coal from off the altar, this shall be the instrument in the hand of the Spirit for bringing about a great and thorough revival of religion in the land.

I do not look for any other means of converting men beyond the simple preaching of the gospel and the opening of men’s ears to heart it. The moment the Church of God shall despise the pulpit, God will despise her. It has been through the ministry that the Lord has always been pleased to revive and bless His Churches.

May God raise up in this day a generation of expositors who are committed to proclaiming His truth to this world. If God has called you to be His servant, why stoop to be a king?

Preach the Word!

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