Preaching Articles

There is a big debate in preaching circles. Expository preaching versus Topical preaching. If someone falls in the first camp they decry the use of topical preaching and say “well it’s shallow and results in the preacher forming an opinion first and then going to God’s word to find support second”. Those in the topical camp say “well modern audiences just do not have the ability to sit through a series on a whole book of the Bible and they need preaching directly relating to their various life topics.

The thing is neither one of these is the right way to preach. In fact expository preaching can be topical and topical preaching can be expository. I do not believe  they have to be put  into separate categories.

For instance: right now I am preaching through the book of Proverbs. The great thing about this book is I can go through Proverbs as well as address some topical life needs my congregation is dealing with. This is the best of both worlds.

Right now I want to look at how to avoid the dangers of topical preaching. Next week we’ll look at the dangers of only doing expository preaching.

So the point of expository preaching is  to carefully study a text and then bring out the original meaning the Biblical author had.

My question to you is: why can’t topical preaching  do this? It can if we avoid  these things:

1. Sticking to Our Preconceived Notions No Matter What We Find

I know that as a preacher if I find a topic I feel I need to address in a sermon I usually already have an opinion on that topic. But this can be dangerous because then I can just figure out the topic I want to preach on, type into Google “the Bible on trust” or look in a concordance or Bible dictionary for the best passage to support my opinion then build my sermon off of that. All this can be done without any careful, exegetical study on the exact passage or passages I am using.

This could even cause people to throw out a new idea or opinion they find in the text, merely because they did not want to do the extra work and study.

2. Repeating the same topical studies over and over again

Unfortunately, I see this a lot in churches and with preachers. They like to speak on the same “life topics” over and over again. I get the temptation. But the Bible is broad and addressees many themes, issues, and people. Expand your horizons.

3. Ignoring the stickier parts of the Bible

Many times  when topical preaching is employed the parts of the Bible that are messy and not as clean as “life topics”. But the Bible is filled with stories and people that were not perfect. Let’s stretch ourselves out and preach these things as well.

Topical preaching is and can be very effective. We just have to be careful with it just like anything else.

Part two coming soon! How to Avoid the Dangers of Expository Preaching

Joe Hoagland is the preaching pastor at Pleasant View Church of Christ in Jeffersonville, Ohio. He is newly married to his awesome wife Jenna, and together they have a spoiled little Chihuahua-Cocker Spaniel puppy named Yoda. Joe loves to lead people to Jesus and preach God's word. You can oftentimes find Joe hiking, camping, writing or enjoying technology (Android over iOS, Windows over OS X).

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Tom Lambert

commented on Sep 7, 2015

Excellent little article. I have been there (good and bad). I do a lot of expositional but also topical. A pastor is a care taker, not just an expositor. As such, we must address specific issues of the day and also within our flock. The bottom line is we serve as the Lord leads, not as some so-called expert thinks we should. Good job for a rookie.

Lawrence Webb

commented on Sep 7, 2015

With topical preaching, it's easy to get a concordance or "chain-type" Bible and string together verses containing your pet themes, making that the main part of preaching. Some undiscriminating hearers will say, "He's really preaching the Bible!" One thing I'm discovering late in life is the lectionary. I often find passages I've never preached before and am challenged to find their true meaning. Of coure, even there, I may search for a topic I can reduce to an outline, rather than seek to plumb the depth.

Gregory Williams

commented on Sep 8, 2015

How about get down on your knees and ask God what he woul like to say to the people through you! Remember we are vessels to be use for his glory. Let's take our shallow thinking out of it and let the Holy Spirit teach the church through you!

Ronald E. Vanauken

commented on Jun 10, 2019

Ok, I get it; but if one is attentive to Jesus or to Paul or to the prophets, theirs was not primarily, let alone exclusively, expository preaching . . . not by a long shot. They addressed the issues that individuals and congregations were facing in their day and drew in the Torah to support their words. Even this they did not do consistently! For me the bottom line is always, is this what the people need to hear or, from another perspective, is this what the Lord would have me say to this people at this time. If it can be said via an exposition of a particular passage, fine, and if not, that's fine as well.

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