Many pastors today go for shortcuts when it comes to preparing sermons. Such backstreets include swiping sermons from other preachers, visiting websites with prefabricated sermons, or purchasing Bibles with sermon outlines right in them.
These pastors don’t realize their shortcuts lead to a dead end alley. With their back to an unexpected brick wall, these pastors will either hear “Your fired” from their elders, or “Poorly done, lame and lazy servant” from their Lord (depending on how long they last).
How shortcut preachers are (sort of) on the right track
Pastors who opt for shortcuts are halfway to the point where they need to be. They have recognized that they are insufficient for their task. But they have tried to solve their insufficiency in a self-sufficient way, namely, with shortcuts.
Once you realize that you are insufficient for preaching (and I hope you have), you need to turn to what is sufficient for the task of preaching: the Bible.
Expository preaching is easier because the text writes the sermon for you
At first glance, digging into the Bible in order to write a sermon from scratch might seem hard. The difficulty of the task is what sends so many preachers to the short cuts.
But when you determine that you will do your own work in the text, you will quickly see that the Bible does all the heavy lifting for you.
The expository preacher doesn’t write his sermon. He discovers it.
This is because the text supplies everything you need. And that is because the Bible is (surprise!) all sufficient.
This is the heart of expository preaching. The Bible itself provides everything you need to help your people trust and obey Jesus.
5 reasons expository preaching makes sermon prep easy
How exactly does the expository preacher “discover” his sermon? He studies the passage expecting it to provide him with these basic sermon building blocks.
1. The text supplies the issue for your sermon to address. This is the Fallen Condition Focus (or FCF for short), which is just a technical term for “our sin problem.” If you try to come up with this on your own, you’ll be subject to your own whims, the whims of your congregation, or the whims of current events.
Addressing the issues raised in the text provides balance, and, over the long haul, will speak to every issue we face in life. This leaves you innocent of using the pulpit as a platform for your own agenda.
2. The text supplies your sermon outline. Bryan Chapell has provided a helpful distinction between the outlines of topical, textual, and expository sermons:
A topical sermon gets its theme or topic from the text, but it is developed elsewhere or according to the nature of the topic.
A textual sermon would get its topic plus its main ideas, its main points from the text, but the development of those points is also outside the text itself.
An expository sermon gets its main idea, its main points, and its subpoints or its developmental components from the text as well. So it is by methodology binding the preacher to say what the text is saying. The preacher becomes a bondservant of the text, working according to the thought of the original author.
3. The text supplies your theology lesson. When we preach, one of our goals should be to locate our passage within the narrative of the Bible and within a theological framework. Each passage contains a word or phrase that points to a broader topic in biblical or systematic theology. If you take your cues from the text, any excursus you take will be relevant to your passage and your sermon.
4. The text supplies your gospel presentation. Let the text prompt you regarding what angle you take on the gospel. This way you will preach it with detail and nuance, since each passage provides a unique contribution to the gospel message.
5. The text supplies you with illustrations. Recently I was looking at James 1:16-27, the famous “be doers of the word” passage. I was struck by how many ready-made sermon illustrations were deposited in that passage. These illustrations come from astronomy (“lights…no variation or shadow due to change,” 1:17), childbirth (“brought forth,” 1:18), agriculture (“firstfruits,” 1:18), agriculture again (“implanted,” 1:20), cosmetology (the word as a mirror, 1:23-24), husbandry (“bridled,” 1:26), and clothing (“unstained,” 1:27).
With every passage packed full of so much rich sermon goodness, isn’t it shocking that pastors would ever want someone else to put sermons together for them?
Don’t do expository preaching just because it makes your job easier
It’s possible for you to use expository preaching in the same way other guys use downloadable sermons. Just to go for what is easiest. But expository preaching is still work. And only hard working pastors deserve to preach for a living (1 Tim. 5:17-18).
What makes expository preaching honorable is that God’s word drives the content of the sermon, from beginning to end. The goal of the expositor is to simply be faithful to the word, and to let God’s word do its work among God’s people.
This glorifies God because it gives him all the credit for whatever good the sermon does. It glorifies God because it makes the preacher a servant of God, rather than making the sermon a servant of the preacher.