FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Several hundred pastors and students developed a better understanding of the book of 1 John and how to preach it during Southwestern’s 10th annual Expository Preaching Workshop, March 3-4. Sessions led by seminary faculty and guest speakers ranged from sermons on specific passages to helpful resources and strategies for preaching through the book to handling difficult texts.

“Do you want to know how to have power in the pulpit?” asked Robby Gallaty, senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn. “Start preaching what God says.”

“When you preach what God says, that’s what motivates and moves the hearts of men and women.”

Gallaty led two sessions during the workshop, his first being a sermon on 1 John 2:28-3:3 and his second being “Five Pitfalls that will Sidetrack Your Preaching Ministry.” During this second session, Gallaty explained his sermon preparation process and gave helpful instruction on understanding the meaning of the text, delivering a text-driven sermon and developing as a preacher.

Steven Smith, vice president for student services and communications at Southwestern, gave instruction on preaching difficult texts in Scripture, primarily using passages from 1 John as examples. He warned pastors not to ignore difficult texts but to interpret and explain them with humble confidence.

“If we ignore texts,” Smith said, “people will lose confidence in us; but that’s not the bad part. If we ignore hard texts, they lose confidence in God’s Word. God has no other plan to relate to your people outside of His Word.

“If you can explain [difficult texts] in a winsome way, without glossing them, taking your time and walking your people through it, … you’ve given people an unbelievable gift. They will trust their Bibles, and as a consequence, they will trust you.”

Southwestern’s dean of the School of Theology David Allen dug from his decades as a pastor and preacher to provide what he considered the best resources for preaching 1 John, including books and commentaries. Allen authored 1–3 John: Fellowship in God's Family in the Preaching the Word series by Crossway, released in 2013, which he considers an “expository sermon-tary” more than a commentary because it is a collection of sermons through John’s epistles.

Matthew McKellar, associate professor of preaching at Southwestern, challenged pastors to deliver the message of 1 John as a pastor-evangelist. He appealed to 1 John 2:1-2 and John’s emphasis on Jesus’ substitutionary atonement and advocacy on behalf of Christians.

“According to this text,” McKellar said, “every believer has an advocate at all times in the best place who offers real help.”

Jerry Vines, pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., also joined the conference, as he has done since 2005. Vines preached a chapel sermon on Psalm 51, which he called the Old Testament version of 1 John 1:9.

Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson concluded the conference with an exposition on 1 John 5:1-12.

“The Spirit of God is a witness, and He’ll take the preacher with a heart for God and a love for the lost, and He’ll ingrain that message in your heart until, like the prophet, there is fire in your bones and you cannot keep silent,” Patterson said.

As part of this year’s Expository Preaching Workshop, Southwestern hosted about a dozen pastors from Brazil who were on campus for the workshop as well as intensive classes in preaching and pastoral ministry later in the week.