At a large church in the historic district of Savannah, Georgia the ministers have been preaching through the gospel of Luke for almost three years. Rocky and I joined them for worship Sunday and it was the 144th sermon from Luke and the fourth on his parable of “The Ten Minas.” Needless to say, those ministers in their method of expository preaching are picking apart the text piece by piece.
Our daughter also visited a church Sunday and commented that the minister only briefly mentioned one or two Bible verses and that the sermon was more like a “life lesson.” Her conclusion was that she wanted to find a church where she would learn more from the Bible.
At the Farmville Community Arts Council several months ago with The Refuge’s “Small Town Erasing the Lines” I was struck by the preaching of an African-American minister from Kinston. His topical sermon was saturated with Bible verses that he had memorized. One got the distinct impression that he had Scripture ready in his mind for any eventuality and was convinced of the necessity of this memorization for day-to-day life.
In many mainline denominations ministers base their sermon text on the Revised Common Lectionary. The Lectionary divides the entire Bible into three years of pre-selected passages. Each Sunday the minister chooses between a selection from the Hebrew Bible, the Psalms, an Epistle and a Gospel. During the season of Easter the Hebrew Bible passage is replaced by one from Acts. Some ministers engage in expository preaching almost exclusively while others alternate between detailing the meaning of a particular Bible text and preaching on a certain topic or theme. Tim Keller in his book on preaching writes “Expository preaching should provide the main diet of preaching for a Christian community… [It] is the best method for displaying and conveying your conviction that the whole Bible is true. This approach testifies that you believe every part of the Bible to be God’s Word, not just particular themes and not just the parts you feel comfortable agreeing with.”
The key is that during worship the Scripture is heard in context, its historical background is explained and the author’s original intent is explored. Those in the congregation must be challenged to consider how to apply these truths in their personal relationship with God and in their daily interactions with people. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)