Expository preaching not a matter of style
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Paul’s charge to Timothy to “Preach the Word” could be heard reverberating in every session of the fourth annual Expository Preaching Workshop, Feb. 25-26. Students joined pastors from around the country at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to learn foundations and strategies for creative expositional preaching.
“Every called of God preacher has to face that command of the Lord,” Jerry Vines, pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Fla., said in reference to the apostle’s charge to his protégé. Vines led a session on preaching through the book of Philippians and then gave an example of an expository sermon during chapel.
Steven Smith, assistant professor of preaching and James T. Draper Jr. Chair of Pastoral Ministry at Southwestern, discussed the current obsession with styles of worship and how it affects the way many preach. He claimed that “Expository preaching is not a style; it is a theologically driven philosophy of ministry.”
“An obsession with style is universal in the church,” Smith said, adding, “It is the temptation of every person to mount the pulpit and, in the back of your mind, thinking, ‘How can I manage my reputation as a good preacher.’” This danger crosses all styles, whether traditional, contemporary, seeker or emergent.
Smith said the preacher must die to himself and become invisible in order to avoid getting in the way of people seeing Christ. “(Expository) Preaching is God revealing Himself through the person of Christ, Christ revealing Himself through the Word, and the Word then being revealed to the people through the preacher. In this limited way, the preacher stands in God’s direct revelation of Himself,” Smith said.
He outlined the difference between text-centered sermons and text-driven sermons. In text-centered preaching, he said, “The preacher takes a text of Scripture and all the points of the sermon come from the text, but it is not driven by the structure of the text.” In contrast, text-driven preaching allows the substance, structure and style of the text to dictate one’s preaching. For example, if the structure of the text is inductive, then the sermon should take on an inductive structure.
John Meador, pastor of First Baptist Church of Euless, Texas, led two sessions. In the first session, he preached on the passage in Ephesians 6 about the “Armor of God” and used authentic military armor to illustrate his points. In his second session, he discussed effective techniques and strategies for using illustrations, such as using a creative team to help in sermon planning.
Alan Streett, W. A. Criswell Chair of Expository Preaching at the Criswell College in Dallas, Texas, and author of The Effective Invitation, challenged conference participants to plan out the invitation as part of the sermon. “The invitation is the conclusion of an evangelistic message,” he said. “It is the application part of the sermon. And I’m convinced that preachers cannot make that transition because they add or tack on an invitation to the end of the sermon, and therefore, the presentation is disjointed.”
Calvin Pearson, assistant dean for preaching and pastoral studies at Southwestern, explained the use of rhetoric in preaching, and David Allen, dean of the school of theology at Southwestern, exhorted participants to forget about being great preachers and strive, instead, to do great preaching.
In the final session of the conference, President Paige Patterson said, “Some people have said that exposition is boring; it often is. But if it is, the fault is not with the exposition; the fault is with the preacher.” He explained that the text will never transform the lives of the audience unless it first transforms the life of the preacher.
Patterson considers expository preaching one of the most effective ways to teach a congregation how to read the Bible. Southwestern is committed to raising up a generation of preachers who faithfully preach the Word.