Southwestern theology dean warns: Too many preachers abandoning expository preaching

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP) – The pulpits of American churches are being used for something other than what was intended, David Allen of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary said in a sermon during the annual Pastors’ Conference at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Fla., Feb. 4.

“Today there is a crisis in the pulpits of America. There is a crisis in the pulpits of the evangelical church and, yes, there is a crisis in the pulpits of many Southern Baptist churches,” said Allen, dean of the theology school at the Fort Worth, Texas, seminary. He said preaching has largely become an effort to utilize personal experiences, pop psychology, and therapeutic and narrative preaching to reach the people in the pews.

Allen cited Jeremiah 10:21 as a warning to preachers to return to the preaching of the Bible as it was intended to be preached, through the exposition of each verse. In the passage, Jeremiah warns: “For the shepherds have become stupid and not sought the Lord; therefore, they shall not prosper and all their flocks shall be scattered.”

Allen applied the verse, saying that there are three consequences of refusing to listen to God and deal with His Word in the right way. First, there is a personal loss, he said, because the person who is supposed to preach the Word becomes “stupid.” He said that the neglect for the Word of God has become so rampant that countless numbers of ministers have begun to download sermons from the Internet. On the other hand, ministers often deal so lightly with the text that they only entertain “and then let the people connect the dots.”

Failing to expound the Word of God also results in a professional loss, Allen said. He quoted Jeremiah as the prophet warned that these kinds of shepherds “shall not prosper.”

“God help us to understand the difference between a crowd and a church. Anyone can draw a crowd, “ Allen said, noting that many people attend churches to hear a comforting message which validates culture. But Allen said preaching should do the opposite.

“Preaching has always been counter-cultural,” he said. “You cannot conform to culture and still preach the gospel.”

Finally, Allen said failing to properly preach the Word of God will result in a pastoral loss or, as the prophet wrote, “their flocks shall be scattered.”

“My plea, my challenge, my call to you is to return to the exposition of the Word of God and, if you are an expositor, hold the line, carry the torch, and preach the Bible so that the people will know God,” Allen said.

Allen said he learned the art of expository preaching from his two mentors, Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson and Jerry Vines, retired pastor of First Baptist Jacksonville. As a young man, Allen sat under the teaching of Vines while he was pastor of a Georgia church. Later, Allen attended the Criswell College and studied under Patterson.

“These men are my two ‘Pauls,’ my models for ministry,” Allen said as he credited both men with passing the legacy of expository preaching on to him.

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