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Why I preach the way that I do

October 6, 2020 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:  Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-- with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2 Timothy 4:1-3)

A few Sundays ago, I began my sermon by sharing a little about what you might call my philosophy of preaching: how I preach, and why. Allow me to expand upon that a bit in this space:

1) Preach primarily the Bible, not my thoughts

Yes, of course, the Bible will always be filtered through my experience and personality, but my goal is to preach what the Bible says. I do not believe a sermon should mainly be about the thoughts of the preacher. This means that you will not hear from me a bunch of inspiring stories about puppy dogs and funny things my kids did. It does mean that I will read lots of commentaries and books, listen to other sermons from trusted sources, and try to distill that into a message that is in line with what has been taught by 2000 years of preachers, theologians, and followers of Jesus. And if you are not sure that the Bible is God’s Word, at least you will hopefully hear clearly what it has to say, so that you might consider its authority for yourself. My hope is not that you would come away saying “what a great preacher” but “what a great God.”

2) Preach primarily expository, not topical sermons

Expository preaching means that the point of the passage is the point of the sermon. It means that I need to do the work of understanding what the particular passage meant in its original historical, literary, and grammatical context, and then, after I’ve done that work, to consider what it means for us today. I will have to understand who wrote the passage, to whom they wrote it, and how the passage fits into the larger context of the book, or the section of the Bible, or the overarching Biblical story. I believe that only after you have a proper understanding of a passage in its context can you then understand how it rightly applies to us today.

Expository preaching also means that I will tend primarily to preach through books of the Bible instead of doing mainly topical preaching (like “The five keys to a happy marriage” or “How to achieve your dreams”). While there is a place for topical preaching, I believe that a church that majors in that style of preaching may draw a larger crowd but will reinforce the me-centered, consumer mentality of our world. Preaching through books of the Bible makes it harder to skip over parts of the Bible that are uncomfortable (like the slaughter of the Canaanites, which we looked at last Sunday). A topical approach to preaching makes it easier to pick and choose the parts you like and to stay away from anything that is difficult or controversial. I believe that all Scripture is God-breathed and useful, and that if I work hard enough, I can show you how even a book like Joshua has relevance to you today. In this way, you might say that a diet of topical sermons is like a diet of candy – it’s more pleasurable, but in the end, it doesn’t make you healthy, while a steady diet of expository preaching might not be as exciting, but will bring you greater health in the long run.

 3) Preach gospel-centered, not moral example sermons

The Bible is not primarily a collection of moral examples to follow or avoid. I don’t want people to leave every Sunday hearing the message “be more like Joshua” or “you need to do more.” Instead, I want to focus primarily on how the passage points us to Christ, to the good news of Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins. Rather than come away with more things we need to do in order to be a good Christian, I want people to see how Jesus accomplished what we could not do, and that through knowing and trusting in Him, He can transform us into the people we could never be on our own. I don’t want to preach morality, because morality can not save you. I want to preach Christ crucified for our sins.

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