The Pitfalls and the Promise of Expository Preaching (3 of 3)
I want to conclude this short series in the same way Derek Thomas concludes his chapter, by commending to you the model of consecutive expository preaching. This is not the only way to ever preach. In fact, I try to do at least one preaching series a year that is expository but not consecutive. Still, on balance, I’m convinced that consecutive exposition (lectio continua) is the most effective method for building a healthy, vibrant, biblically faithful congregation.
Thomas notes six advantages to this approach. Although the ideas are largely his, the words are mine.
1. It introduces the congregation to the whole Bible. If all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable, then we would do well to travel through as much of it as possible.
2. It takes us to out of the way places in the Bible. There are chapters, verses, books (and sometimes whole Testaments!) of the Bible that will never be touched with topical preaching. Of course, most preachers won’t stick around long enough (or live long enough) to preach every verse in the Bible. But consecutive preaching gets you around the Bible more effectively than a series on marriage, parenting, and finances every single year.
3. It models for people how to read the Bible and that they can profitably read their Bibles all the way through. One of our chief aims as preachers must be to teach our people how to interpret the Bible for themselves.
4. It exposes a congregation to the full range of God’s interests and concerns. Instead of discerning what our people want to hear, we let Scripture decide what people need to hear. Over time, they’ll hear about divorce, incest, discipline, wrath, racism and a thousand others things they might not know are in the Bible. And when the congregation is hit between the eyes with conviction of sin or a meddling text, they can’t blame the preacher for riding hobby horses.
5. It can help preachers vary the style and mood of their preaching. We might think the consecutive exposition would make for less variety than topical preaching. But if the preacher is paying careful attention to the text, he will shape his sermon to fit the next text instead of picking a topic and then searching for supporting texts. Of course, the benefit of variety requires a suitable pace through longer books of the Bible.
6. It frees preachers from the tyranny of having to choose a text. Preachers can think ahead and plan ahead. They can see the forest and the trees. Consecutive exposition provides continuity from week to week and allows for a freedom that arises out of order.
My prayer, for myself and for the preachers reading this blog, is that we would be increasingly committed to expository preaching and increasingly skilled at actually doing what we say we are committed to.