Students interacted with top preaching professors and authors during a Grindstone Q-and-A forum, Jan. 31, on the topic of text-driven preaching. Panelists included David Allen, dean of theology at Southwestern Seminary; Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.; and Steven Smith, dean of the College at Southwestern.
Together, the panelists offered decades of preaching experience and teaching to students in an effort to help future preachers understand the approach to text-driven preaching and its value for local churches. Allen and Akin served as editors and contributors to the 2010 publication Text-Driven Preaching: God's Word at the Heart of Every Sermon. Smith wrote Dying to Preach: Embracing the Cross in the Pulpit in 2009.
Panelists agreed that while the term “text-driven preaching” is often synonymous with expository preaching, they believe it is a more helpful term since expository preaching has such a broad range of meaning today.
Smith defined text-driven preaching as “communicating and translating a biblical text in a sermon that reflects the substance, the structure, and the spirit of the text.”
Panelists answered several questions comparing and contrasting text-driven preaching with topical preaching, exegetical papers and “needs-based” evangelistic preaching. In response to a question about the need to give an invitation at the end of every sermon, all three concurred that since the Bible consistently calls for a response, so should preaching, although methodology might differ from setting to setting.
“I could scarcely imagine you preaching the word of God and preaching the Gospel and not inviting men and women to respond,” Akin said. “In fact, I would consider that ministerial malpractice.”
Panelists advocated adjusting sermons for different audiences, including youth, but discouraged “dumbing down” a message. Instead, they advised preachers to use compelling, relevant illustrations and applications along with clear exposition in appropriate language. Akin noted that young people are far more capable of understanding theologically deep material than preachers and parents often give them credit for.
Allen agreed: “You can walk away knowing that you made an ‘A’ that day in your preaching if a junior high school student understands what you said and it was creative enough to keep them hooked in to what you were saying. Students today are looking for solid stuff; they’re not interested in fluff.”