Three months ago I started working at HoneyRock camp in the Northwoods of WI. Working at a Para-church organization is a change for me since I have worked in some capacity in a local church ministry for the last four years. While I love the ministry opportunities, one change I'm having difficulty with is finding a local church. Our search has taken us to many churches in a two hour radius and we still feel very disappointed in what we have found. This has lead to discussion between my wife and I about what in a church can we sacrifice to find a suitable match. We have talked about the importance of expositional preaching, Biblical theology, Biblical worship, evangelism strategy, ministry, and other aspects of the local church. So this week I returned to Mark Dever's Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. After reviewing the nine marks I think these are the core of what we are looking for in a local church body. Today I would like to focus on the importance of expositional preaching.
For those who have never had a pastor who preaches expositionally it may be difficult to understand the importance of a preaching style. I mean after all its enough if the word is being preached, right? So perhaps we should start with the definition of expositional preaching. Expositional preaching is preaching whose object is to expound what is said in a particular passage of scripture, carefully explaining its meaning and applying it to the congregation. Unlike topical or Biographical preaching, expositional preaching offers an explanation and application of a particular portion of God's word.
Expositional preaching starts with a belief in the authority of scripture. Expositional preaching is not so much a style of preaching, but rather a commitment to focus on the very word of God. Many preachers will gladly state that they believe in the authority of scripture, and have a commitment to the words of God, but without preaching expositionally the pastor will never preach more than he already knows. A pastor preaching topically can use passages to support the point of his sermon, and yet never explain the point of the passage. Preaching expositionally means preaching it in context, trying to distinguish the original author's intent. A pastor who does not show this discernment may be trying to insert his own agenda into the sermon, rather than the message of God alone.
Expositional preaching has a long history in the church, and has often been the spring from which new growth has come. Martin Luther's attention to the words of God found in scripture gave birth to the reformation. The scripture being preached is central to worship. When I've found myself in a church service that did not preach the word of God, as I have twice in the last month, I become infuriated at the neglect of forgetting the very word of God when we meet. Preaching is the fundamental component of pastoring, not counseling or worship. The preaching of the word of God will result in worship, we do not need music for that purpose. I encourage all pastors who do not preach expositionally to do so, and encourage all congregants to pray for their pastor to have a healthy view on the authority of scripture.