Consecutive expository preaching entails preaching through whole books of Scripture passage-by-passage. In recent years, more and more pastors are moving away from this kind of expository preaching. Some people complain that it is boring, lacks relevance, and is not sufficiently application driven. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are some very good reasons for maintaining (or adopting) consecutive expository preaching as the principal manner of preaching in your church. Here are seven.
1. It is the best way to feed the sheep a balanced diet. This method enables you to work through large portions of Scripture that cover a vast array of theological and ethical topics. I am convinced that authentic Christians are hungry for this kind of preaching—preaching that helps them gain a better understanding of their Bibles and regularly challenges them on what they believe and how they behave.
2. It enables you to treat hard topics without being second-guessed. Because the Scripture treats the hard topics in many places, you can preach and admonish your congregation without them wondering why you have chosen to address them on that topic. For instance, if your sermon covers the issues of sexual immorality and adultery, the congregation doesn’t need to wonder whose marriages may be falling apart in the church. It also forces you as a preacher of God’s word out of the “safety” of only dealing with “comfortable” topics. This method let’s God’s word speak to all issues.
3. It helps to insure that you preach the Scripture and not yourself. It is tempting for a preacher only to preach on familiar and “pet” topics. We all have areas of interest that we have invested a great deal of time in and have passion about. It takes a lot of work to prepare in many other areas, but it is the most healthy and well-balanced approach. In a similar way, it is easy for a pastor to put together topical messages that are more rooted in one’s own ideas and understandings than on the basis of Scripture. Staying rooted in one passage helps to increase the likelihood that the people will hear from God rather than from you. In short, this method helps to let God set the agenda, not you.
4. It doesn’t have to be boring and lacking in relevance. This criticism of expository preaching, in my estimation, is more of a criticism of an individual preacher and not a critique of the method.
5. Expository preaching is and should be application oriented. Perhaps expository preaching hasn’t been sufficiently application oriented in the past as it has been represented by a variety of preachers. I think it should be very application oriented. This is in the very nature of the nature of the incarnation and the Scriptures themselves. Ample time should be given throughout the sermon (not just at the end) for drawing out the legitimate implications of the text for faith and practice in a practical and relevant way.
6. Expository preaching models how to read Scripture in context. One of the dangers of some other approaches to preaching is that it models a “grasshopper” approach to the text—finding a verse here and there all over the Bible. If the texts are properly interpreted, that may be OK. But there is a distinct danger insofar as it models a “prooftexting” approach to Scripture. Expository preaching, on the other hand, develops an understanding of a passage in its larger book context within the Scripture and draws out the social-historical background of the passage.
7. There is a long history of this kind of preaching in the church—with great impact! Read up on the role of expository preaching in the ministries of people like John Chrysostom, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Calvin. And more recently, look at the ministries of leaders like J. Vernon McGee, Charles Swindoll, Kent Hughes, John Stott, Richard Bewes, and many more.