Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Expository Preaching

I want to spend the next several posts on the blog placing an article on there by Steven J. Lawson about expository preaching. He originally wrote this article a few years back in a Southern Seminary magazine. If I were to guess the age of the article was in the late 1990's. It is entitled the ten how to's of expository preaching. I have grown to respect this man greatly; though I have never met him personally, only talked to him on the telephone. He is a very gracious, gentle and biblical man. He loves the Lord Jesus and His Word very much. If you have never read any books written by him, Famine In The Land being one; get them! My prayer is that you will enjoy this rich article about expostory preaching and learn much from Dr. Lawson regarding it.

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

Expositors are not born, they are made. Gifted by the Spirit of God, yes. But such men are, nevertheless, forged in the fire of hard study, hammered on the anvil of rigorous practice and polished over time. Whether you have been preaching for only a short time or a lifetime, whether you preach in a country church or a mega-church, every preacher must be ever refining his pulpit skills in order to powerfully deliver the Word of God.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the great preacher of London’s Westminster Chapel, emphatically stated, “The work of preaching is the highest, the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called.” I applaud that statement, not because there is anything special about those of us who preach, but because there is everything special about Him who has called us to proclaim His Word.

Because the Bible is what it claims to be—the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God—preaching is the highest calling known to man. As heralds of the sacred Scriptures, we have been entrusted with the greatest privilege of all—that of being mouthpieces through which the living God has chosen to speak. To us has been committed the greatest privilege of offering the unsearchable riches of Christ to those who are spiritually bankrupt and dispensing the treasures of His wisdom and understanding to those desperately in need of His grace.

As a result, we must be firmly committed to handling His Word with excellence. Anything less would be unfitting for the high calling upon our lives to preach. With this in mind, I want to share with you the essential steps of expository preaching that I use each week to communicate the Word of God to my congregation.

Be the Right Person. Before the preachers can prepare the sermon, God must first prepare the preacher. If our hearts are not right, then our sermons can never be right. As a result, we must always be passionate in our personal pursuit of God. Never study a passage simply to prepare a sermon. We must always study to prepare our own hearts first and foremost. I cannot take others spiritually where I have not already gone. As a preacher, I cannot share what I do not possess.

Robert Murray McCheyne, the noted Scottish preacher, said, “The greatest need of my people is my personal holiness.” In other words, I must first of all, be a man of God. What I say must be the overflow of who I am. My preaching must occur within the context of a dynamic relationship with God.

Choose the Right Passage. Now, we must decide which passage of Scripture to preach. In order to make this choice, we must exegete our audience, interpret their spiritual needs and determine the most appropriate series that will produce the desired result. Generally, I preach through entire books in the Bible to insure that I cover “the full counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). I also will preach a shorter series through one chapter in the Bible (i.e. Joseph, Genesis 37:50), or a biblical topic (i.e. spiritual gifts, 1 Corinthians 12:1-13). I must emphasize, prayer is always a must in being led by God to make the proper choice.

After a decision has been made regarding what to preach, the expositor must look for the central idea of the text, the “big idea,” or the main point of the passage. We should ask ourselves, what is the core truth the biblical author is trying to communicate? We want to become keenly aware of the passage, reading the text over and over and over with an observant eye. We are to be like a detective poking for clues or a prospector panning for gold. Personally, I prefer to photocopy the passage out of my Bible, marking it up thoroughly as I read it until I have it almost memorized. I want the central idea clearly in mind allowing it to dominate my thinking.

As I investigate the verses, I always ask myself several key diagnostic questions: Who is speaking? Who is the original audience? What is he saying? Why is this recorded? When was this written? What are the circumstances behind this passage? What immediately preceded this passage? What follows? How does this passage fit into the overall theme of the book?

In the process of reading the passage and its expanded context, I look for a unit of thought—a paragraph—that will be my specific text. At this point, I attempt to determine whether I will preach, for example, one, three, five or eight verses. In other words, I will determine how many verses my sermon will cover, after which I summarize in a complete sentence the main idea of the passage.

As I continue to pour over the passage, I look for transitions in the flow of thought, breaks in the action, main verbs, cause and effects, key words and reoccurring themes. At this point, I write a working outline of the passage so I can visually see its general structure and subordinate truths.

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