Summary: A plea for expository preaching.
Why I Prefer Expository Preaching
To say that there is a great division in the church today over styles of preaching may be somewhat of an understatement. Among Fundamentalists, there is almost an all out war. The battle tends to lie mainly in the heat of the emotions rather than facts.
I have known preachers from both sides of the issue. I have used both styles, topical/textual and expository in my preaching. I have seen the extremes on both sides and have come to the side of expository preaching through much comparison and grief from criticism.
Some do not really know the difference. I offer a brief description of each. This will also be helpful since there seems to be confusion over the definition of expository preaching. A topical sermon is one, which takes a subject like Separation, the Trinity, Love, etc. and discusses it from one or more proof texts.
A textual sermon normally takes a verse or portion of a verse as a base for a topic or to be explained more clearly. Expository preaching is usually considered as taking a paragraph, chapter or book of Scripture and teaching the meaning of that Scripture while making application to the congregation’s present or future needs.
My desire is to show why the scope of expository preaching as a principle makes it the greater benefit to the souls of man than the other two. I have ten reasons why I believe it to be so.
I. It avoids hobbyhorses and pet peeves.
Everyone has heard the old story about the water baptismal regenerationalist who was preaching from Genesis 1 where it says "and the Spirit moved upon the waters" and yelled "See, you have to be baptized because the Spirit is in the water!" Among Fundamentalists, the hobby horses/pet peeves are different but they are still assigned to passages that do not teach the issue. If a topic really bugs a preacher, he will see it taught in every passage. He will teach it every week or even sermon.
You will know when a man hits his pet peeve. It is usually on the third point of his sermon. He spends more time on that point and yells louder. The other two points may have been very good but you will be sure to remember number three! This can happen in expository preaching. It is very rare since the passage will actually speak to the issue and it will not come up as often since you must follow the outline or tenor of the entire book.
II. It makes it harder to preach in the emotions of the flesh.
All preachers are subject to immense stress and receive unjust accusations. It is easy to use the pulpit as a whipping post or a place of vindication if you are not systematically teaching the whole counsel of God through study of the history, syntax, theology, and grammar. The "I’ll teach them!" sermons are never in the Spirit.
I will admit it is easier to build a whole message on the sensationalism of a current event rather than mentioning it in passing or applying the Scripture, you are teaching if it fits appropriately. However, sensationalism sows sickly, shallow seed.
I. It limits accusations.
Tying in with the previous point, it will be harder for a person to say that you are preaching solely to them or revealing confidences. I have heard many sermons where the preacher said; "You do not know this person." The preacher did not name the individual and made an effort to infer that the event occurred somewhere else. However, it was clear to almost everyone in the church who the person was he was talking about. After all, the event happened only last week and was discussed by the pastor with several people. It made "good preaching" and the preacher was vindicated and the rascal rightfully trounced.
Usually, the person’s sin was needlessly publicized. This meant that it would be harder for the person to repent and return to the church since he had his bridges burned for him by the pastor. He was virtually excommunicated for something that did not fit the third phase of Matthew 18.
If you were preaching systematically, you would have time to forget the emotional instance, pray about the sin and for the sinner. You might even have him reclaimed before everyone knew about it. They would be moved by your love and example to forgive and love him as well thus fulfilling the spirit of Matthew 18.
If you tell the preacher something in confidence on Friday and he preaches it on Sunday (disguised, of course), you will lose confidence in that man. You will seek counseling elsewhere or leave the church completely.
I have known preachers who were going to preach one sermon until a woman in slacks or a man with long hair walked in. They were suddenly "led of the Lord" to switch to Deuteronomy 22:5 or I Corinthians 11. This is not conducive to conversions or growth. You cannot convert or teach a person whose head is lopped off in the first two minutes of the sermon.