So, yesterday I asked if there is consistent biblical example or mandate to preach expository sermons. I don’t think there is and I find that pretty ironic since it is based on the principle that Christians should look to the Bible for answers on how to live (apparently excluding how to preach).
I made a statement about halfway through the post that I want to talk about in this post:
topical preaching may risk the danger of manipulating the Bible into saying what the preacher wants it to say, whereas preaching from the text (and generally through the text) means that people are learning and living out what the Bible says.
In this, I think, is an assumption that makes expository preaching much more dangerous than topical preaching. When someone preaches an expository sermon the impression they give is that they are telling the audience what the Bible says, not what they think. This would be great, if it were true.
Expository sermons can be just as full of opinions and personal agendas as topical sermons. At least in a topical sermon it is clearly stated that the person is trying to make point X and will use Bible Passages a, b, and c to prove X. In the expository sermon point X is given some super-powerful association with being “from the Bible” and now carries the weight of being “biblical” as opposed to an opinion that is merely supported by the person’s interpretation of the Bible.
I think Steve hits on this point well in his comment on yesterday’s post:
expository preaching doesn’t guarantee that the preacher deals with the text. Yes, he may READ the text out loud before his sermon, and he may talk about it during his sermon, but the true meaning can be easily avoided. I’ve heard it happen numerous times from very gifted expositors. (emphasis mine)
Be cautious of people who try and tell you what the Bible says, especially those who tell you they have no agenda.
Something I find rather interesting and ironic is that when we look in Scripture we can’t really find anything that resembles the model by which most conservative pastors preach today. Aside from the interesting congruence between preaching and audiences of lost people (as opposed to primarily preaching to Christians, such as the modern practice is) we also don’t see anything like the expository model of preaching most preachers follow today.
So, from what I understand, to preach an expository sermon is to preach a sermon with a certain Bible passage as a focal point, with the attempt to explain what that passage means and to convince the audience to obey whatever the preacher has explained that Bible passage to mean.
The general principle in this form of teaching is that people should let the Bible (as explained by the preacher) inform them on how to live as Christians. They should listen to sermons explaining the Bible and take their cues from those sermons, and by extension the Bible, on what they are to think and do as Christians. This is why expository preaching exists, because topical preaching may risk the danger of manipulating the Bible into saying what the preacher wants it to say, whereas preaching from the text (and generally through the text) means that people are learning and living out what the Bible says. – This statement is an attempt to give the expository preacher the benefit of the doubt
The irony, of course, comes about in the fact that expository preaching cannot be found to be a consistent example, let alone given as a mandate, in the Bible.
Just kinda makes me wonder…
Scenario 1: When I was a teenager I used to listen to a lot of “underground” music by bands that made livings working at McDonalds or cleaning toilets or whatever they had to do. They worked to make money. They played music because they loved it. Sometimes those bands would break out and start to gain enough popularity to live off their music. I don’t know if it was me or them, but I felt like it changed their music, like they weren’t playing because they loved it anymore, now they were playing to make their fans happy so they could sell CDs and concert tickets. I usually stopped listening to those bands. They had become sellouts.
Scenario 2: If you were planning a wedding and you wanted really nice pictures you would probably want to hire a professional photographer. You may not have anything against your sister’s brother-in-law’s daughter, but, although she loves taking pictures, she only does it as a hobby and you can’t trust that she will be able to provide high-quality photos which are very important to you for remembering your wedding day fondly. It’s simply an inescapable fact that professionals generally produce higher quality results than amateurs.
These two scenarios represent two very different mindsets. The first prefers the person who is unpaid. His work is far superior to the work of the sellout because he does it with love and passion and without the handcuffs of a paycheck holding him back. The second scenario prefers the professional because she has taken the time, gotten the training, and demonstrated the talent necessary to really “succeed” in her field.
Which perspective do you generally lean toward? Does it vary based on the field or discipline? Here’s the real question: does your perspective on this impact your understanding of ministry and professional ministers, pastors, worship leaders and so on? Just a thought.
This is another installment in my Christian How To series.
I am not a preacher. I have no intention of becoming a preacher. But, I did go to Bible College and I picked up a few tricks about preaching while I was there. Out of the generosity of my heart I will pass those secrets along to you, my readers.
The most important thing about preaching is the ability to not only convince people you are right but to convince them to change based on your good ideas. Although there are lots of things preachers talk about from the pulpit, they mostly all fall under just a few categories. I have created a list of generic topic categories and how, through your preaching, you can convince people to change in each of these areas. I hope it is helpful!
This category covers a lot, from supporting missionaries, to giving a regular tithe. It just seems that the average churchgoer doesn’t give enough at church and needs a little prodding to get this done.
Like money, this category is broad. You need the people to give as much of their time as possible for missions, ministries, folding bulletins, or whatever else, but, unfortunately people normally like spending their spare time with family doing fun things.
Everyone is supposed to do it. No one seems to want to. Every good pastor knows that it is important to emphasize this requirement for the Christian life. There are literally billions of people who have never heard the gospel.
You don’t necessarily want your people reading the Bible all the time or else they may start to question some of your teachings and start to develop their own theological opinions, but for a good showing you have to encourage them to knock the dust off the ‘Good Book’ every once in a while.
Maybe you are reformed and think praying is more about conforming our will to God’s, or maybe you are Pentecostal and need your people to pray with more faith for that jet you need to spread the gospel across beautiful tropical locations. Whatever it is, we all agree prayer is important.
This is the end-all be-all of your job. Getting people to come back and fill those seats. If you can’t get them coming back then you are going to be out of work, and how will they know how to live Christian lives if you are not there to hold their hand? Get them coming back, get them to bring their friends, and get them to any and all services you can.
You can read other installments in the ‘How To’ series here:
In Christians and Politics: its complicated I said that I think Christian responsibility within government is a complicated issue and needs to be approached with understanding and gentleness from everyone involved.
There are a few main approaches for Conservative Evangelical Christians when it comes to political views and actions. There may be more, but based on my observations these are the major ones that I see:
- The Conservative Right – This is probably the biggest group, and easily the most politically powerful on a national scale. This group generally holds that America is founded on Christian morality and principles. Generally it tries to promote Christian morality through the government. It works to elect leaders who oppose abortion and homosexual marriage. It encourages Christian activity and symbols within government institutions (i.e. ten commandments in courthouses, prayer in schools). It generally feels that welfare is a bad system which supports laziness and that war is useful in defending freedom, spreading democracy, and opposing the spread of Islam.
- The Welfare Advocates – This group sees that Christians are called to care for those in need and believes that the government should be used to do that. They generally support redistribution of wealth, government aid programs for the lower-class and impoverished – programs like food stamps, government health care, housing assistance, higher-education assistance, and so on – , providing shelter and basic needs for refugees, and becoming involved, as a nation, in supporting those living in third-world countries and natural disaster zones. They generally take issue with programs that help the wealthy such as government bail-outs and cutting taxes for the wealthy.
- The Politically Disinterested or Apathetic – This group generally believes that from a Christian perspective politics are unimportant. Things having to do with the governments of this world are irrelevant to those destined to the New Kingdom where The Father sits on the throne and Christ at His right hand. They believe that the government has no real lasting value and that they have no responsibility or need to be involved with it. They may vote, and when they do it tends to be along similar lines as the above mentioned Conservative Right (i.e. against abortion and gay marriage, supporting prayer in schools). They usually believe it is important for The Church to care for those in need, and have little to no expectation that the government should/will do anything about it.
- The Limited Government Proponents – This group embraces freedom, both morally and economically. They generally feel that people should be allowed to do whatever they want as long as it does not infringe on the rights (to life, liberty, and property) of others. The basic premise behind this is that forcing people to act moral will not make them Christians; it will not affect lasting change in their hearts, but at the same time people should not be allowed to hurt others and Christians should defend the defenseless, thus there is a limited role and responsibility for the government to protect but not impose morality. This group generally believes in economic freedom as well, feeling that welfare systems do not demonstrate love and promote Christ since they are forced giving through taxation. This, again, would go back to the moral issue, people should give not by compulsion but out of love for their neighbor, government run welfare does not offer that opportunity and limits what can be given willingly due to increased taxation.
What is important to see in the best scenario of all these views is that there is a desire to follow the Bible. The angles are all different but the desire is the same. You may want to encourage Biblical morality, you may want to encourage the Biblical call to care for those in need, you may want to have your attention on the Heavenly Kingdom, or you may feel that it is important to know where people’s hearts really are, thus allowing them the opportunity to act morally depraved. With this understanding, that we all want to be Biblical, hopefully we can deal with this topic a little more friendly. I think we all have opinions about each of these ideologies, but I tried to give a fair and impartial explanation of what I understand the core beliefs of each approach to be.
Like I said, there may be other approaches, but these are what I thought of. Can you think of other Conservative Evangelical approaches to Christian involvement in government?