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3 Styles of Preaching

With all the earlier discussion on the blog about orthodoxyBiblical theology, Scripture, and Bible study, it’s probably fitting that I also address preaching. For a few reasons…

  1. Preaching connects us to all to all those elements listed above (1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 1:13; Titus 1:9; 2:1)
  2. Preaching is an essential component of a local church (Rom. 10:14; 16:25; Eph. 4:11-13; 1 Tim. 4:13-16; 1 Tim. 5:17; 2 Tim. 4:1-2)
  3. Preaching is imbued with the power of God (Rom 10:13-17; 1 Thess. 2:13)
  4. Preaching allows the glory of God to shine (1 Cor. 1:21; 2:4; 2 Cor. 4:5)

If preaching is so important in the life of the church, we should expect a high standard of the preaching in our own church.

Now, I am not telling you to go pester your pastor on every point of difference you have with their preaching. The congregation I belong to can certainly testify that I have not preached infallibly behind the pulpit, though I aim for nothing less! Mistakes will be made in the pulpit, because no pastor has perfect theology, and we are all learning together. I am also not advocating that you hound every church in the city whose theology you disagree with. That’s a waste of time, and won’t benefit anybody. What is beneficial is identify biblical preaching, because then you can immerse yourself in the life of that church, obeying the Word of God as it is preached rightly. As we progress, I’m certainly not presenting myself as the high standard—but I think we can and should have a baseline when it comes to preaching, and strive for it.

So what constitutes “biblical” preaching?

Perhaps we should ask, “What does the Bible think is ‘biblical’ preaching?”

By this, I mean, how does the Bible itself present preaching done correctly? We can find some examples throughout the Bible…

  • “the Levites, explained the law to the people” (Nehemiah 8:7)
  • Jesus “explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27)
  • Paul “reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead” (Acts 17:2-3)
  • approved workman are “accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15)
  • “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2)
  • Teach and preach these principles” (1 Timothy 6:2c)
  • “Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?‘ And he said, ‘Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this: ‘He was led as a sheep to slaughter; and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He does not open His mouth. In humiliation His judgment was taken away; who will relate His generation? For His life is removed from the earth.” The eunuch answered Philip and said, ‘Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?’ Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:30-35)

I’ll stop there.

From the Old Testament to the New Testament, a pattern emerges: explanation, teaching, and preaching (which is proclamation). In other words, the Bible’s own “opinion” of correct preaching is at least the explanation and teaching of the meaning of the Scriptures, and the proclamation of it’s truths.

A preacher’s primary job is to give a sense of the Scriptures meaning, and then exhort people to respond. 

Biblical preaching is expository preaching. 

Mark Dever helpfully explained expositional preaching as explaining a Scripture’s main point, then explaining and proclaiming that main point in a sermon. Or even more succinctly, “Making the main point of the text the main point of the sermon.”

So according to the New Testament epistles (letters written to early churches), a church must include expository preaching as part of it’s worship gathering.

But, you say,

There are a lot of types of preaching! Some preachers preach for 15 minutes, others for an hour; some preach on a single verse, and others preach whole chapters or even books; in between these are so many different styles of preaching: storytelling, verse-by-verse, series, etc. How do you know which one is good?

I’ve heard some of my own friends elevate sermon styles over others, and denigrate others for preaching in a way that they do not like. Notice that this has nothing to do with faithful preaching, but preaching preference.

The requirement of faithful preaching is expository not stylistic. In fact, different styles of preaching are useful, as well as expository, that is, they can explain the Bible using different methods of communication. Here are a few (though not all)… Read the rest of this entry

Chew the meat spit out the bones

Not everything you read is good. Not everything you read is bad. But nothing you read is perfect. This leaves you with a lot of potentially great books, yet none that are ever above scrutiny. That’s ok.

You don’t always have to agree with someone to learn from them.

Actually, it’s rare to agree with someone about everything. My wife Brianna is my best friend but we still don’t agree on what house “clutter” is; I say everything is worth keeping, while she says everything I’m keeping is worthless! Notwithstanding the exaggeration, the point remains that we still learn from and challenge each other everyday. Similarly, it is quite limiting to stick with the same tribe of authors because reading widely helps to avoid tunnel vision by providing differing viewpoints. So if you only read a single publisher, a certain author, or a particular movement, you’ll inhibit your ability to think critically. Now, you should read much within your particular tribe, if you have one, to strengthen your convictions. But being surrounded only by your favorite authors can cause you to become ethnocentric, concerned only with reinforcing your preexisting beliefs, and perhaps unable to question your own fallibility.

Now what’s the fun in that??

One of the more invigorating reading practices of mine was to broaden my scope to include more authors within the realm of Christian orthodoxy—I tend to read theology—suspecting that some of those whom I disagree with may still offer a valid and even helpful perspective. But how does one do this? My friend once told me to “chew the meat and spit out the bones” when I came across anything questionable in a book. By this he meant that I was to learn from anything valuable whilst disregarding everything else. I suppose this is a less tired variation of saying “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”

Leave behind the bad and keep in mind the good.

You’re probably doing this with my blog post. You’ve found a few helpful points, perhaps a clever sentence or two, yet are disregarding everything that is disagreeable or rubs you the wrong way. Perhaps you loved the thought of reading widely, but hated the implication that reading narrowly leads to tribalism. Perhaps you disagree with the entire premise of the post and read it with great reluctance. Perhaps you hate the cute stock image of a dog chewing on a bone. Since we are being completely honest with each other, you should admit that you skim most of my blog posts anyway. And that’s quite alright. In fact, you should hone this as a skill and use it on all authors that endeavors to persuade you. Because the reality is that everything you read is attempting to convince you of a truth claim in one form or another. Whether a classic novelist weaving together a grand narrative of suffering and God’s existence, as in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s the Brother’s Karamazov, the doctrinal claims of the latest theologian, or this blog post, you must discern the truth claim being made and whether it is worthy of an audience. But what to do when an author is tantalizing and at other times distasteful? Must you ignore brilliant authors because they don’t acclimate to every opinion you have? Of course not. After all…it could be you that’s wrong half the time (or more). Just chew the meat and spit out the bones. Happy reading! And watch out for those indigestibles.

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