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Some of you may have little or no experience with what I mean by preaching. What I mean by preaching is expository exultation.

Preaching Is Expository

Expository means that preaching aims to exposit, or explain and apply, the meaning of the Bible. The reason for this is that the Bible is God’s word, inspired, infallible, profitable—all 66 books of it.

The preacher’s job is to minimize his own opinions and deliver the truth of God. Every sermon should explain the Bible and then apply it to people's lives.

The preacher should do that in a way that enables you to see that the points he is making actually come from the Bible. If you can’t see that they come from the Bible, your faith will end up resting on a man and not on God's word.

The aim of this exposition is to help you eat and digest biblical truth that will

  • make your spiritual bones more like steel,
  • double the capacity of your spiritual lungs,
  • make the eyes of your heart dazzled with the brightness of the glory of God,
  • and awaken the capacity of your soul for kinds of spiritual enjoyment you didn’t even know existed.

Preaching Is Exultation

Preaching is also exultation. This means that the preacher does not just explain what’s in the Bible, and the people do not simply try to understand what he explains. Rather, the preacher and the people exult over what is in the Bible as it is being explained and applied.

Preaching does not come after worship in the order of the service. Preaching is worship. The preacher worships—exults—over the word, trying his best to draw you into a worshipful response by the power of the Holy Spirit.

My job is not simply to see truth and show it to you. (The devil could do that for his own devious reasons.) My job is to see the glory of the truth and to savor it and exult over it as I explain it to you and apply it for you. That’s one of the differences between a sermon and a lecture.

Preaching Isn't Church, but It Serves the Church

Preaching is not the totality of the church. And if all you have is preaching, you don’t have the church. A church is a body of people who minister to each other.

One of the purposes of preaching is to equip us for that and inspire us to love each other better.

But God has created the church so that she flourishes through preaching. That’s why Paul gave young pastor Timothy one of the most serious, exalted charges in all the Bible in 2 Timothy 4: 1-2:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word.

What to Expect from My Preaching and Why

If you're used to a twenty-minute, immediately practical, relaxed talk, you won't find that from what I've just described.

  • I preach twice that long;
  • I do not aim to be immediately practical but eternally helpful;
  • and I am not relaxed.

I stand vigilantly on the precipice of eternity speaking to people who this week could go over the edge whether they are ready to or not. I will be called to account for what I said there.

That's what I mean by preaching.



John Piper is founder and teacher of DesiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For over 30 years, he served as senior pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. John is the author of more than 30 books, and more than 25 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at DesiringGod.org. John and his wife, Noel, have four sons, one daughter, and an increasing number of grandchildren.

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Talk about it...

Keith B

commented on Feb 2, 2012

Good article.

John E Miller

commented on Feb 2, 2012

"I will be called to account for what I said." The reality of this important truth seems to escape many. Well said.

Fred Mueller

commented on Feb 2, 2012

In preaching it is the preacher's job "to make points" from the BIble? I thought it was to proclaim the living word of God. We reformed folk believe the sermon is the Word of God - not points frm the BIble. God does not need me to "apply the Bible" to people's lives. The BIble is the most relevant book there is.o

Pastor Herbert W. Roshell

commented on Feb 2, 2012

Awesome read! This take time and many mistakes along the way. Thanks, I will use some of this during my leadership training this week! One thing that became a great learn to me, was "knowing my place in God kingdom" and understanding... "one plant, one water, but God give the increase". The old saying is "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink" is so true in the works of God. I think we as pastor must ask ourselves over and over again "what is my job" as far as tending the sheep? We do this... just to keep our eyes and hearts pointed in the right place with His kingdom! Once again, thanks for the encouraging words!

Robert Sickler

commented on Feb 2, 2012

I like what you said. I have a feeling, however, that the warm and fuzzy preachers and the prosperity gospel peddlers would have a hard time applying this principle to the entire New Testament. I agree that every ?sermon? should be firmly rooted in the Bible; that it is the preacher?s duty to show people how this applies to our lives; and, every sermon should serve to glorify the deity of Christ. After all, it is a very poor preacher who primarily entertains the people.

Reverend Daniel Forster

commented on Feb 2, 2012

Amen Brother, thank you for a wonderful article. Also, thank you for the live stream of desiring God, for those of us who were unable to attend. God Bless!!!

Myron Heckman

commented on Feb 2, 2012

Fred, I think one preaches the living Word of God by making the same points as the Word. The Bible is indeed the most relevant book - helping people apply it (put it into practice in their thinking, feeling, and acting) is in concert with that, not divergent from it. The goal is that we have the same message as the Bible, helping people understand it and respond to it in a godly way.

Doug Conley

commented on Feb 2, 2012

I personally agree. But, I don't decide how long I preach. I am allowed 20 minutes. 30 max. I feel rushed and that I have inadequate time to allow my preaching to really sink in. I'd love the time to expound more on the text and spend more time in exultation. But 20 minutes can barely allow for enough of a message to explain the text, let alone encourage people to apply it. Any suggestions?

Dennis Cocks

commented on Feb 2, 2012

Doug, you're the pastor you should decide how long the message is. Churches are to be pastor lead not deacon lead, or board lead, or congregation lead. 2 Timothy 4:1-2; Hebrews 13:7, 17.

Trevor Payton

commented on Feb 2, 2012

Doug, I agree with Dennis. If the people are limiting your preaching time, perhaps it says something about the conditions (and idols) of their hearts...and that can in turn shape your preaching. We happily watch a Sunday afternoon football game for 3 hours, but can't wait for the closing song to finish. Are we more drawn to entertainment than to God? Of course, if we preachers aren't well-prepared then that's another story. NT Wright once shared his opinion that it is a sin to preach dry, boring sermons (because it teaches people that God's Word is boring). But either way, I think this topic might be worth discussing with the leaders in your church. Strength to you, brother! ...Oh yeah: this is an excellent article. :)

Michael Morton

commented on Feb 2, 2012

Personally, I'm in the immediately practical crowd. I want to leave my people with something to hold onto as they leave the assembly that they can use the following week. My general observation in all the churches I have attended and those that I have served is that the longer you preach over 20 minutes the fewer people your are going to reach. You will be turned off. It's diminishing returns. When I was in grammar school a great preacher told me that it was much easier to preach a long sermon. It's getting a good message in a concise amount of time that takes work.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Feb 2, 2012

Michael if that works for you that is fine. But what does that say about people who can only "endure" 20 minutes of the Word of God being preached? If the service is an hour is the 40 minutes of music and whatever else more important than preaching? I've always said what Trevor said, people can sit in front of the TV and watch whatever sport they like and if it goes into overtime or extra innings it's exciting, but if a preachers goes 5 minutes past noon, he is in trouble. Sermonets produce Christianets. Our service is an hour and 15 minutes long and I preach about 40-45 minutes and people don't complain. I believe the trouble with America is that many people no longer want to hear preaching and preachers have givin in to the people and we are seeing the results. It is the preaching of the Word that saves and changes lives. We need more preaching not less.

Robert Cobb

commented on Feb 2, 2012

I have been preaching for 10 years now and it seems as though each week I am still "learning how to preach." the best thing that I have learned over the years is to just preach the word and let scriptural truths be ampliphied and the minor nuggets I add are only to help the wandering mind of the typical pew warmer get turned towards the truth of scripture. We are seeing livers touched and changed and sadly we are seeing some move on because they are not ready for the truth or that they simply can't handle the truth.

Michael Morton

commented on Feb 2, 2012

Dennis, I read earlier that you said the preacher should decide how long he/she should preach, yet you tell me I will generate Christianettes. Our service is between an 1 hr and 1 hr 15 minutes. I'm sure people don't complain to you; they just tune you out. Watch closely as you preach and go over 30 minuted. I'm not trying to change the way you preach; I don't know your church or parishioners. I do know mine. We are an active growing church so something must be working.

David Mende

commented on Feb 2, 2012

"The preacher?s job is to minimize his own opinions and deliver the truth of God." I like that statement. And I believe that is possible through expository preaching more than any other form of preaching.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Feb 2, 2012

Michael, I said if that works for you that is fine. But I stand by my statement that preaching should be the priority of any service and we need more preaching, not less. And I do think it is a SHAME in America that some Christians can't listen to the Word of God preached for more than 20 minutes. There are many churches that are growing where the pastor preaches 40-45 minutes. We are also growing so something must be working.

Chaplain Shawn Kennedy

commented on Feb 3, 2012

We cannot compare preaching to football or any similiar media. TV is visually oriented and gives people breaks in the form of commercials. People are free to get up and return. The bottom line isn't the message- it's the messenger, regardless of the arena. If you are a good communicator, time is irrelevant.

R.l. Wilson

commented on Feb 4, 2012

I love expository preaching! After growing up in churches where the pastor would hoot and holler and the congregation would leave with not only an earache and headache but not get a real life changing message. So when I first started preaching it was hard for me to write out a sermon and preach like that because it just wasn't me. So hearing an expository preacher for the first time was like a breath of fresh air. I adopted it with power-points so now I'm able to teach and preach. Outstanding article! Thanks John.

Bryan Thompson

commented on Feb 4, 2012

I think it all depends on what kind of preaching we're talking about. I've been to pastors conferences and sat on the edge of my seat for hours listening to sermon after sermon and soaked it up like a thirsty field. If I'm listening to some guy prattling on for 15-20 minutes, not really saying anything important, in love with the sound of his own voice...yeah, that's too long. If the guy is preaching the inspired word under the direction and anointing of the Spirit of God I'll listen and it won't even cross my mind about what's for lunch after church. Maybe I'm extraordinary, but I don't think so.

Daniel C. Malloy

commented on Aug 4, 2012

I read in the book "Heavenly Man" by Brother Yun that in the Chinese underground churches the western preachers could not hang because the churches are used to two or more hours of preaching. It reminds me of the Apostle Paul preaching late into the night the young man falling out of the window dead the Apostle raises him from the dead and keeps on preaching, Praise Jesus! BTW does anyone else have trouble with this discussion box bouncing all around? PEACE.

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