Preaching must exalt Christ over application

Preachers must be driven to the text so their preaching will be driven by the text, according to speakers at Southwestern’s fifth annual Expository Preaching Workshop, March 2-3. The two-day event for students and pastors explored the theological foundations as well as the missiological and ecclesiological effects of text-driven preaching.

“If the passion at the center of the Bible is to make God’s glory known, then the passion of those who preach the Bible is to make God’s glory known,” said David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., in the opening session.

Platt expressed his concern that preachers too often treat the Bible as a guide for practical application rather than as divine revelation. “Our infatuation with practical application can cause us to overlook the most important quality of the Bible—its divine feature,” he said.

Addressing the preacher’s dilemma of whether to give people helpful tips (advice) or biblical text (truth), Platt later said, “What’s better? What’s more helpful for them: for us to try to answer their questions or for us to feed their spirits with the Word of God so they are transformed into the image of Christ and in tune with the Spirit of Christ who will be with them in the context of their situation?”

In the same session, Platt used the Great Commission to explain the missiological implications of text-driven preaching. From Matthew 28:18-20, he explained how the authority, mission and presence of Christ serve to compel, require and empower preachers to preach the text.

The decision not to preach the text of Scripture is a decision not to exalt Christ, Steven Smith, assistant professor of preaching, said. Noting that the church exists to contribute to exalting Christ, Smith said, “When a pastor explains a text of Scripture, he exalts Christ and agrees with God’s purposes for the church.”

Calvin Pearson, associate professor of preaching at Southwestern, acknowledged the negative connotation associated with the word “preach” in the present culture. He believes this perception of sermons as “boring, tiresome lectures” began during the Scholastic Movement, when preachers stopped focusing on what the text said.

“Preaching died when it became just public speeches about religious things rather than the simple proclamation of what God said,” said Pearson. “When it comes to life, people don’t care what you have to say. They care about what God has to say.”

David Allen, dean of the School of Theology and preaching professor at Southwestern, gave insight for preaching difficult passages in Scripture. Using Hebrews 6:1-6 as an example, he showed how exegesis of the passage in its context as well as a study of the historical views associated with passage help the preacher exposit the text and lead his people in a better understanding of it.

George Harris, pastor of First Baptist in Kerrville, Texas, instructed worshop participants about sermon preparation, and Jerry Vines, former pastor of First Baptist in Jacksonville, Fla., outlined how to preach through the book of Jonah.

Southwestern president Paige Patterson concluded the workshop with a demonstration of text-driven preaching from Galatians 3:10-14. “The day of the great proclaimer of God is not dead,” he said. “Our world is starving to death to hear men stand up and preach the word.”

To listen to sessions from the Expository Preaching Workshop, visit www.swbts.edu/conferenceaudio.

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