D.A. Carson is one of my favorite scholars. His commitment to Biblical authority and his helpfulness in preaching the Scriptures rightly has been something from which I’ve benefited for years.
Below are lectures he gave in regards to preaching from the gospels and the apocalyptic literature in Scripture. (HT: Monergism)
Preaching the Gospels 1 (MP3)
Preaching the Gospels 2 (MP3)
Preaching the Gospels 3 (MP3)
Preaching Apocalyptic 1 (MP3)
Preaching Apocalyptic 2 (MP3)
After an almost six month hiatus, delving in almost exclusively to my Gospel Gripped blog, I am now back to posting periodically at this blog, now retooled and been renamed: Exposition Avenue.
Exposition Ave. is the name of a street here in Denver. I would pass it frequently, and I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great if our churches travelled on this road; not literally, but in practice? Wouldn’t it be great if not just our preaching, but every part of our church life here at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church was an exposition of the teaching of Scripture?”
My passion for expositional preaching stems from a personal journey that has included a life of ‘impositional living’—that is, me imposing my own interpretation and my own ‘reading’ upon the Scripture. There is no room for this! We expose the true meaning, context, and application directly from Scripture by the means of the Holy Spirit so as to expose the idols of our lives, have them toppled, so the Spirit would reign full and free.
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“Be well instructed in theology, and do not regard the sneers of those who rail at it because they are ignorant of it. Many preachers are not theologians, and hence the mistakes which they make. It cannot do any hurt to the most lively evangelist to be also a sound theologian, and it may often be the means of saving him from gross blunders. Nowadays, we hear men tear a single sentence of Scripture from its connection, and cry, ‘Eureka! Eureka!’ as if they had found a new truth; and yet they have not discovered a diamond, but only a piece of broken glass. Had they been able to compare spiritual things with spiritual, had they understood the analogy of the faith, and had they been acquainted with the holy learning of the great Bible students of past ages, they would not have been quite so fast in vaunting their marvelous knowledge.
“Let us be thoroughly well acquainted with the great doctrines of the Word of God, and let us be mighty in expounding the Scriptures. I am sure that no preaching will last so long, or build up the church so well, as the expository. To renounce altogether the hortatory [giving exhortation] discourse for the expository, would be running to a preposterous extreme; but I cannot too earnestly assure you that, if your ministries are to be lastingly useful, you must be expositors. For this purpose, you must understand the Word yourselves, and be able so to comment upon it that the people may be built up by the Word. Be masters of your Bibles, brethren; whatever others works you have not searched, be at home with the writings of the prophets and apostles. ‘Let the word of God dwell in you richly.’”
— Charles H. Spurgeon, An All Round Ministry (c. 1870s)
“It is easy for a preacher to be bold when he is in his own pulpit, among friends. But when there are manifestly hostile people breathing out fire, as Stephen was soon to find out, a bold preacher takes great risk. That is why Martin Luther said that in every generation there will be the threat of the gospel going into eclipse. Every time the gospel is proclaimed, clearly and boldly, opposition arises and conflict comes. A minister has never mounted a pulpit anywhere in the world who has not been absolutely aware of how dangerous it is to be bold. So when preachers are fearful, they have to come back to this text and look at the way the Apostles, without respect for their lives or their worldly goods, would say like Luther, “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also,” and then preach with boldness” (R.C. Sproul, Acts, St. Andrews Commentary—in commenting on Acts 2:14-41).
Alistair Begg in his small book Preaching for God’s Glory outlines a number of caricatures of true preaching. He begins this section:
If churches or their pastors begin to think of the place from which messages are delivered to the congregation as a stage, it is inevitable that caricatures of the preacher will emerge to take the true preacher’s place. Sadly, this is precisely what has happened. In our day the expositor of Scripture has been eclipsed by a variety of sad substitutions.
Here they are, complete with paraphrases of what these entail:
- The cheerleader. The preacher’s task is to “pump them up.” He has a need to be liked or accepted, and aims to be positively inspirational. “A good Sunday for him is one where his people laugh a lot, are affirmed and affirming, and go away more self-assured than when they arrived. . . . A quest for wholeness has replaces a concern for holiness.”
- The conjurer. Where the preacher does not want to do the hard work of studying, but rather conjures up his own meaning to the text and fails to discover and look to what the biblical author/Holy Spirit intended by the text.
- The storyteller. Everyone loves a good story more than exposition of the Bible. Thus, they find themselves working on telling a good story rather than working on understanding the Word of God better. While Jesus did use stories (parables), Begg notes that this “does not grant the contemporary preacher the license to tell stories devoid of heavenly meaning that are of no earthly use!”
- The entertainer. This is where the special preacher is not a worshiper with the throng, but is in the green room backstage ready to come on when it’s time. While this is not entirely bad or sinful, this format risks a disconnect between the worshipers seeking to be entertained and the speaker wishing to entertain. Both are worshiping and both have a job to do.
- The systematizer. This is the preacher who “views the text of Scripture as merely the backdrop for a doctrinal lecture. . . The systematizer’s theological framework is so pronounced that it predominates the exposition.” The risk is a lack of passion. Scripture rules the framework, not vice versa.
- The psychologist: Preachers preach on tips on how to raise your children, dealing with impatience, or purchasing flowers for your wife. All of this can be done (and sadly is done) without reference to Scripture, causing listeners to be malnourished. Why? They need a banquet of the Word of God!
- The naked preacher: In an effort to be authentic, the preacher shares all of his faults and foibles, warts and wrinkles to the congregation. The risk is that it becomes an exercise in the pastor being “real” or “relevant”—and ultimately about the one preaching rather than about the One on whom we should be preaching—Jesus Christ and His redemptive work.
Begg goes on to say that there are those who are the “politician,” “end-times guru” or “hobby horse rider.” We have a job to do and an announcement to convey—the Good News of God’s work through the cross and empty tomb of Jesus Christ. Let’s be careful not to get off track.
Any other caricatures you can think of?
Kevin Larson at The Resurgence wrote a very compelling piece called “Why You Should Raise Up Preachers at Your Church.” He notes that some church planters (and I would add even pastors of more established churches) fear vacating the pulpit for even a week because they are under the delusion that the church rises and falls on them.
I found this quote interesting:
Do you feel alone in the struggles of preaching? Let someone else take a stab at it. The old joke that a pastor only works on Sundays won’t garner many laughs as other men take turns wrestling with God and a text and then proclaiming the results to God’s people. Many fear that sharing the pulpit will invite further criticism of their weakness, but generally the opposite occurs. Don’t be so insecure.
While I believe a calling has something to do with fueling preachers to preach 3-4 times each week, I actually have heard this from one of my deacons. He said, “Bro. Matt, if anyone comes up to me about your preaching, I always tell them two things: (1) He’s preaching the Bible, and (2) would any of us be willing to give it a try. When you’ve walked in a pastor’s shoes, you then begin to understand His calling. So pray for him.” I was so appreciative of that—not because he defended me (I do not feel that need), but because I know his prayers have teeth because he ‘gets’ to a degree what pastors go through.
But back to the original issue. I had the pleasure of training young expositors as part of my Doctor of Ministry project at Southern. It was one of the great joys of my life and I’m ready to tackle that again—ready to pour into others regarding preaching and ministry in general. Not all of these men I trained during my DMin went into the preaching ministry. In fact, one is now a band director and another is a worship leader (the latter found out through this project that he was not called to preach—but at least he worked through it to see).
But we must not allow pride and insecurity to be used as leverage to rob others of the joy of ministry. This has been a slow turn for me, but over the last twelve months, God has released me to see that I need to do more equipping and unleashing. And it’s starting to take shape with missions, small groups, fellowships, and other areas.
What think ye?
The conclusion of a sermon is of such crucial importance that it may make or break the thrust of your sermon. While some preachers may think this concept is decidedly unfair, it is nonetheless true. A poor, weak, or meandering conclusion will leave the congregation restless and feeling flat, rather than this being used as a crisp call to action.
The old adage of “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them” has some merit. Your conclusions are there to drive home the theme of your sermon. How so?
- Conclusions could use an appropriate illustration to tie into the theme. An apt quote, a story from the life of a great man or woman of faith, a contemporary vignette dealing with that theme—having these types of conclusions will be of great use. Jesus used illustrations to help illumine a specific spiritual concept. Expositors must never be opposed to using stories to help bolster the theme.
- Put the period at the end of the sentence. By that, I mean to be careful about meandering. Put the period on the end of the sermon. As one preacher said regarding conclusions and sermons: “Put a bow on that puppy.”
- Conclusions, by their very nature, are what the congregation remembers most because it is the last portion they hear. When the conclusions powerfully drive home the theme and thrust of the sermon, your listeners will consider the sermon a “good” sermon, even if the rest of it was mediocre. Such is human nature. Use this to your advantage. You want your people to leave with the point of the passage impressed upon their hearts and minds.
- Work on your conclusions just as much as your introductions and points. If you plan out your sermon from front to back, likely what will suffer most is the conclusion because this will be the last thing you get to. Yet, given the truth of #3, your conclusion should receive just as much attention as that of the body of the sermon.
What are some other important issues regarding conclusions in expository preaching?