It’s never good to do the right thing for the wrong reason. This is because your heart is with the wrong reason, not the right thing to do. And as soon as the right thing to do no longer gets you the results you wrongly desire, you’ll ditch doing that right thing and either do a different right thing or a wrong thing.
This rule applies to expositional preaching: you must not take it up for the wrong reasons. I wouldn’t say that there has been a revival of preaching in our country (I hear of too many people looking for churches without an expository preacher within 45 minutes), it is gaining momentum. But in order for that momentum to be sustainable, pastors need to commit to it for the right reasons.
Am I saying expository preaching is the best kind of preaching? Yes. That doesn’t mean I don’t see a place for topical or thematic sermons. They are helpful from time to time, but even those ought to have an expositional flavor to them if they are going to be faithful to the text. All in all, however, I see no other way for the word of Christ to dwell richly among the church than for the word of Christ to dwell richly among the pulpit.
So, if you’re mulling over whether or not to take up expositional preaching, why shouldn’t you make the switch?
Don’t switch to expository preaching just because the churches in your neighborhood that do it are growing
This happens to be the case with my church right now. My lead pastor is committed to expository preaching. Thematic and topical sermons are the exception to the norm of plowing through books of the Bible, passage by passage. In our membership classes, when we ask people why they want to join, the overwhelming response is our expository pulpit.
But if you switch to expository preaching in order to grow your church, you only do so for pragmatic reasons. “Because it works” was never a good reason to do anything, especially in church ministry. What are you going to do if you find it doesn’t work five years from now? What are you going to do when people want their ears tickled, or else they’ll leave? Will you switch to something else?
Don’t switch to expository preaching just because your young associate pastors are clamoring for it
The young, restless, and Reformed contingent gets especially restless when their lead pastor doesn’t preach expositionally. I know several young staff pastors who are in the midst of this experience right now. A couple of them hold out hope that the old dog can learn some new homiletical tricks.
I would be thrilled to hear of a pastor, mid-career, making the switch to expositional preaching. But I would not be thrilled to hear that he did it out of pressure from the table at staff meeting. I wouldn’t be excited about him changing out of fear that half his staff might leave in the span of 12 months. It’s great to become more expositional in your preaching, but not for that reason.
Don’t switch to expository preaching just because your church members like famous preachers’ expository sermons better than your non-expository sermons
Have you heard someone from your church tell you: “Sorry I missed church last week. I was out of town. But last Sunday night I listened to this John Piper sermon online…you just have to listen it! I’ll email you the link.” Then you check with your IT guy to see what kind of action your mp3s are getting, and he tells you there were five downloads last week. You start to put two and two together, and wonder if you should start preaching more like John Piper.
Well, you should, but not for that reason. Don’t view yourself in competition with famous preachers. You’ll be disappointed with your street cred every day. If you change your ministry style out of insecurity, you will never lead your church out of your confidence in what Jesus has done, is doing, and will do for your church.
Why make the switch?
What would be a good reason to change to expositional preaching? Because God does his work in his people through his word. Consider these verses.
“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (1 Thess. 2:13).
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Those who do not preach expositionally assume – either consciously or unconsciously – that it is their job to make God’s word effective for their people. But if God does his work through his word, then it is the preacher’s job to get out of the way and let the word speak as powerfully and as thoroughly as he can. No antics. No shenanigans. No self-help baptized in evangelical vocabulary.
Expositional preaching is the best way to let the Scriptures take center stage. To make God’s word central in your preaching ministry – that is a great reason to switch to expository preaching.