Just because you are eloquent in public speaking and have confidence does not mean you have a “gift” of preaching. There is a very bold and thick line between a good speaker and a good preacher of God’s word. Problem is, not many people notice this difference! Knowing this means life or death. Seriously! I mean literally. Why? Because I think this is a difference between knowing the depths of God or skirting the surface trying to “feel” God. One makes us “stick” as followers and the other makes us “groupies” of Christians. One preaches to the heart and sanctifies us towards Jesus and the other makes us feel bad or inspires us at that moment and fades over time.
I had this post in draft mode for the last 2 months um-ing and ah-ing whether to write it or not. Partly because this might step on many people’s toes. Also partly because I’m still a rookie in this topic. What’s the topic? Expository or Exegetical Preaching vs Any-how-preaching-whatever-the-preacher-feels-supposedly-led-by-the-Holy-Spirit-picking-bits-here-and-there Preaching.
Having had a chance to go through this experience recently while I got to prepare a sermon on Titus 3, I experience the weight of this responsibility to be a faithful teacher first hand. I have also been transformed by God through such faithful teaching of God’s word over the last 8 years. I know it works because I have seen the alternatives and they did not.
So what is Expository Preaching? Simply put: it is to teach God’s word, verse by verse, chapter by chapter and book by book. All the while considering and taking seriously the unique way in which the text is presented in the particular passage being taught. And NOT to inject previously known (even good) concepts, truths and other parts of bible into it. Picture this like learning from every corner of God’s word in High Definition (HD) rather than just watching “movie trailers” or teaser ads of the bible every Sunday. A more detailed explanation including an examples of what Expository Preaching is can by found on Ps. Steve Tran’s post here.
“I find it really encouraging and I like this way of understanding God more [the expository style of preaching]. I feel that a lot of other sermons I hear are all motivational speeches with the word ‘God’ and ‘Jesus’ thrown into it instead. Take those words out and it can well be a secular motivational talk of love and following rules.” – Paraphrased from a few conversations I’ve had and books I read.
Some find this type of preaching “heavy”. Or Singaporeans call it “too chim ah”. But this is where “roots” grow. I think this lays the foundation for our “house on the rock”. Sure, Jesus is the corner stone, but after laying the corner stone, if we don’t nourish ourselves correctly with proper teaching of God’s word, we’re still building a “house on sand” (ref. Matthew 7:24-27). Because “hearing God’s word” as mentioned in Matthew 7:24 will already be skewed! You’re not really learning (hearing it) right. Why is this life and death? Because without know God through his word deeply and not understanding his truths besides the surface of “do-this-don’t-do-that” or “God-loves-you”, one might not be able to withstand the torrents of serious trials. Or one might get easily swayed by the draw of the world.
Another reason to seek or teach expository preaching is because of sin. A teacher of God’s word who seeks to faithfully teach in this way recognises and always endeavours to study God’s word in its right context within the passage. He or she also acknowledges how sinful they are and know for fact that the biggest issue of preaching is actually the preacher. He then solely and fearfully rely on the Holy Spirit and the grace of God through Jesus Christ to teach. It’s the practice of always shedding one’s self and glorifying God while trying to present God’s scripture for the exact same purpose. It is never self glorifying or trying to use God’s word to exert one’s agenda. This might sound all so obvious to some of you. But believe me! I was in this situation when I prepared my sermon for the first time, fully knowing all these things. And STILL, I fell into the trap of injecting myself into the text. It’s subtle and it’s constantly present as we prepare to teach. It requires training, learning, lots of prayer and the Holy Spirit!
I’d like to conclude by saying, I am NOT saying that all other types of preaching is wrong. Well, actually I am. But I guess what I mean is… I don’t want to be in danger of undermining the work of the Holy Spirit or God’s plans. I will not know how God plans to use other types of church teachings for his purposes even if they are skewed. But what I’m saying is be aware of your nourishment of God’s word. Getting snippets of God’s word every Sunday from whatever the preacher feels like preaching is like getting too much candy and not enough meat and veg for your diet. It is not healthy and not balanced. Did you know that it is indeed true that…
“… All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV (emphasis mine)