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.)
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I completely agree. As I am just beginning my journey on preaching and preparing sermons, I am looking at various aspects from different preachers to help form my own style. Although at the end of the day I also want to make sure that what I am teaching is significant. I have been spending a great deal of study time to ensure that I am ready in season and out to preach God’s word. I desire to be a well rounded Bible teacher that does not put anyone emphasis in rebuke or correction but I am willing to put in much time and prayer in preparing to teach/preach God’s Word and it is something I do not take lightly. James tells us in chapter 3 of his book, that those who teach should understand and know that we are held to a higher standard. This motivates me to put in significant study time so that God can use me in a significant way to hopefully teach something signifiant that is pleasing to Him.
When I think of preaching I always think of two things: what a privilege and what a responsibility!
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A teacher who definitely has a love for the Lord and it shows, teaching God’s word and applying it (as you stated), Knowledge of what is being taught but also open to expanding that knowledge, not adapting to the world but being faithful to God’s word (just because something is popular doesn’t make it right, God and His word are constant), someone who will keep confidences and isn’t afraid to call us out if we betray others confidences , and lastly someone who doesn’t look at themselves as above anyone and isn’t afraid to show they are human. Thank you for leading by example and always being a good teacher Bob. I pray God will continue to bless you.
Thanks Linda for your kind and affirming words.