After having a rather stimulating talk on preaching the parables of Jesus, we were graced with the presence of Dr. Al Mohler, seminary president, who spoke to us for a couple of hours on the topic of preaching.
He shared with us a story of a search committee of a rather large megachurch who called him about a potential pastoral candidate. After 45 minutes of conversation, Dr. Mohler asked, “Would you like to hear about his theology?” They seemed taken aback. They basically said they were looking for someone who wouldn’t “preach” but would “communicate.” They also said they were looking for someone to reach young people. Mohler asked, “Well, how do you want him to do that?” They responded, “I don’t know … that’s up to him?” Dr. Mohler pressed, “What do you think is his primary task in reaching people?” They were silent.
The point was, too many want to fall on so many other methods, yet the pastor’s primary task is the preaching of the Word of God — all of it. Especially in our day when many in our churches fail to see the urgency of God’s Word proclaimed from our pulpits. Here is how he defined expository preaching:
Expository preaching is that mode of Christian preaching which takes as its central purpose the presentation and application of the text of the Bible. All other issues and concerns are subordinated to the central task of presenting the biblical text. As the Word of God, the text of Scripture has the right to establish both the substance and the structure of the sermon. Genuine exposition takes place when the preacher sets forth the meaning and message of the biblical text, and makes clear how the Word of God establishes the identity and worldview of the Church as the people of God.
He acknowledged that “meaning” and “message” could be viewed as synonymous, yet in our day people may understand the message, but then the ‘so-what’ factor sets in. “Yes, that’s what it says… so what? What does that message mean to me?” It is up to faithful expositors of the Word not only to tell what the passage says, but also to give the implications and applications of what the text means. And for many young preachers (myself included), we are far more comfortable finding the message of the text than we are trying to apply it to the listeners’ lives. That comes with time and a growing knowledge of your congregation, I would say.
All of our DMin cohort went to Applebee’s off Hurstbourne Lane. What a great time we had just sitting with Dr. Cook, our professor, and just picking his brain about all things New Testament. He shared with us how much Leon Morris, F.F. Bruce, and John Stott (minus his views on hell) have been an influence on him.
My friend and rooming, Mark Combs of Intersect lore, is really enjoying and benefitting from his first set of DMin classes in Evangelism and Church Growth. I’ll never forget something he shared. He said that many of our gospel presentations were crafted from a Christian worldview for those who have a Christian worldview.
For instance, take the FAITH presentation which springboards the salvation message with the question, “What in your opinion do you think it takes for a person to go to heaven?” According to the program, there are only four answers: Jesus, works, don’t know, not sure. Yet, in our day, some may answer, “I don’t believe there’s a heaven.” Bobby Welch, former pastor of FBC-Daytona, insists on using the exact wording of the program in order for greater success. Yet, do we make provision in these canned passages for such a response?
I am convinced more and more that we need to understand the Gospel story of God’s creation, the Fall of Man, God’s redemption through Christ, our response. But instead of a canned presentation, strike up a conversation and just ask about spiritual beliefs — then incorporate that into the conversation. It’s not about presentations and numbers, but about establishing authentic relationships to where people won’t be suspicious of you trying to get them to “join the group,” but will see you genuinely care about them as one made in the image of God.
Tomorrow, Dr. Robert Plummer will come in and show us how to use some Bible software to help us in our study of the Word of God. Then on Thursday, Dr. Thomas Schreiner will come in to help us in the Epistles. I can’t wait to fill you in. God’s been gracious.