Since I stepped down after 44 years of ministry 13 months ago Jan and I have visited numerous churches and listened to a variety of preachers. I’m guest preaching again this Sunday and am working on what I will say. Putting these two together, I’ve been thinking about this matter of preaching.
From the beginning of our church plant in Moreno Valley I had a commitment to significant Bible teaching. And to use the word significant suggests at least three things. One is that the teaching would be significant in terms of time allocation. Through the years I determined that while some preachers took more time, I would limit my Sunday messages to 30-35 minutes. A second aspect of significant Bible teaching for me is that we interpret the Bible in terms of its original intent and meaning. I never was a preacher who read a verse or passage from the Bible and then left it to say whatever I wanted to say. Bible teaching means teaching what the Bible says. Finally, the third aspect of significant Bible teaching is application. To teach the Bible in a Christian context is not only to consider its content, but also to apply it to life today. Simply stated in the words of one author, “Interpretation is sterile without application.” Some of the messages I gave were more oriented to Bible content and its original meaning, and some were more focused on application for today, but every message had both.
Significant Bible teaching for me did not mean I could only preach straight through a book of the Bible or only preach what are called “expository sermons.” An expository sermon is teaching from one passage in the Bible and basically staying with that passage and going through it. In addition to expository sermons I often also preached what are called “topical sermons.” A topical teaching does not deal with only one passage of Scripture, but refers to and draws from a variety of passages that deal with the topic. In my mind to suggest the only kind of real preaching is expository preaching is to needlessly limit the preacher from dealing with many topics that should be addressed from throughout the Bible.
In II Timothy 4:2 the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” What a powerful challenge then as well as today! Teaching the Bible is to include correction, rebuke, and encouragement, and it is to be done with patience and care. Some preachers go overboard with correction and rebuke with little encouragement while others are heavy on encouragement with little rebuke or correction. Some are lacking in patience and some are not careful enough in preparing and presenting biblical instruction. No two preachers do it exactly the same, but this verse gives all those who regularly teach the Bible some important guidelines.
What do you look for in preaching? Let us know below.
(This article is adapted from chapter 6 of my book A Pastor and the People: An inside Look through Letters.)
Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/57210543@N03/5359565302/”>Life Church Calvert</a> via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a> <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/help/general/#147″>cc</a>