IRVING, Texas (SWBTS) – Pastors, professors and students discussed the vital role of expositional preaching in healthy churches during a “9Marks @ 9” Q-and-A session at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, Nov. 15. Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church and president of 9Marks Ministries in Washington, D.C., led the dialogue with two Texas pastors as well as a professor and students from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Dever chose to focus the panel discussion on expository preaching, which he describes as making the point of a passage of Scripture the main point of the sermon and then applying it to the congregation.
“I’m suggesting that your churches in Texas are going to be healthier if the pastors give themselves to Scripture, if that’s basic in their ministry,” Dever said. He then asked panel members if they agreed and what they were seeing in churches.
“Expository, text-driven preaching is all we’re teaching at Southwestern,” Thomas White, vice president for student services and communications at Southwestern, said. “The text should drive the sermon. If you believe that God’s Word is inerrant, infallible, inspired, then what can we say that God’s Word hasn’t already said?”
White said he is greatly encouraged by the students in his preaching classes who currently serve as pastors or plan to serve after seminary. Josh Smith, a Doctor of Ministry student at Southwestern and pastor of MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church in Irving, also agreed, noting that he sees a positive trend among pastors and congregations toward expository preaching.
“I sense a growing number of guys who are wanting to do it and a growing number of people who are hungry for it,” Smith said. He admitted that some pastors struggle because they were not trained to preach this way while others think they are doing it but “don’t know how to be faithful to the text.”
Anthony Moore, a doctoral student at Southwestern, said good, expository preaching requires both explanation and persuasion. Sermons that sound like a “running commentary” without an exhortation to apply the Gospel to one’s life are insufficient, he said.
Smith agreed, saying, “There is a need to give the point of the text and then plead with the people to respond. … It’s not enough for us to explain and apply. Application is not the end of the sermon; it’s the pleading that’s the end of the sermon.”
One pastor in the audience asked for advice when a congregation seems resistant to faithful exposition. Juan Sanchez, pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, responded, “You can be a great expositional preacher, but if you don’t have a relationship with the people, it’s going to be more difficult for them to listen to you. If you love your people and shepherd them, they’ll (even) put up with some bad sermons.”
Panel members also warned against compartmentalizing preaching from pastoral ministry.
“Preaching and pastoring are related,” Moore said. “They shouldn’t be unnecessarily separated. What you do in the pulpit is similar to what you’re doing in someone’s home at their dinner table. It’s the same preaching and persuading that should be going on. It’s still taking the Word and applying it.”
“Sometimes,” Dever added, “we think that pastoral work is when we’re doing counseling, and then there’s my study work, which is just what I want to do. No, no, no. Your work preparing to teach God’s Word, that’s how you’re pastoring the whole church.”
9Marks and Southwestern provided pastors with free resources to aid in their ministries. 9Marks distributed free copies of their books What is a Healthy Church?
, and Am I Really a Christian?
Southwestern provided copies of the booklet A Pastor’s Guide to Text-Driven Preaching
, which is also available for free as an eBook at www.swbts.edu/epubs