At Christ Central Preston we love teaching through the Bible systematically. So far we’ve been through Colossians, Song of Songs and are now in Hosea. The way of approaching these books is known as “expository preaching”. This article is going to discuss what that actually is and why it’s great! We also do more topical series, which allow us to go into greater depth on certain subjects. Recent topical series have included “In His Image” and “Explicit Jesus”. We’ll discuss the topical side of things in another article. We tend to alternate between expository preaching and topical preaching; we’ve just finished Explicit Jesus and now we’re into Hosea.
Expository preaching is an approach which aims to systematically expose the listener to all that God says in His word. As an example, last week we looked at Hosea 1:1-3. This week we looked at Hosea 1:3-2:1. This means that we systematically are exposed to what the text says, what it means, how it points us towards Jesus and how it applies today. So then, why is expository preaching so important to us at Christ Central Preston?
Expository preaching means that we find out who God really is and can love all of him, not just the comfortable, tame, domesticated God who is sadly so often portrayed in Christian culture. It forces us to look at texts which might not be comfortable or easy, but through which God wants to transform us to enjoy him more.
Look at it this way; Imagine you went on a date with someone but told them that you didn’t want to know anything about their family, work, holiday last week or hopes for the future. You only wanted to hear about their interest in playing tennis, which funnily enough is a hobby of yours too. That would not be relationship destined to go well, and you’d never really enjoy knowing who that person really is! Your relationship would just be a lame echo chamber where you only hear yourself reflected back. God is so much greater than our own personal preferences!
Everyone has preferences. We all have favourite subjects, topics or verses. In the same way, every Bible teacher has preferred topics or verses they like to speak on. The problem is that this means they tend to avoid topics they don’t like, avoid difficult verses and just stick with what they feel is important. In some churches this means that most weeks the Holy Spirit is the topic, or spiritual gifts, or serving in the church, or being a Christian in the workplace… All of these are important topics which do need to be discussed, but often this leads to other things which God decided were important being left out. When I’m doing expository preaching I have to go wherever God leads me through the text; some times it’s challenging, sometimes it’s awkward, but it always leads me and others to know Christ more, which is what it is all about!
This is linked to the point above but is slightly different. Who really has authority in the Church? Jesus himself. Jesus rules through his Word by the power of His Spirit (Revelation 1:16 & 19:15). While God gives leaders and puts them in authority to lovingly serve and teach, ultimately it is Jesus’ church. It is possible for Church leaders to assume ultimate authority by teaching their own theories, methods or ideas. They sound so good, but ultimately they’re just built on man’s wisdom, which is so weak compared to God’s. People have built whole churches in this way! Instead, because expository preaching forces preachers to engage with all of the Bible, God exercises His authority through his Word more extensively.
The Bible presents us with a huge sweeping story which starts before the creation of the world and culminates in a renewed heavens and earth which go on forever. But so often Bible teaching misses out the fact that as Christians we exist for just a moment in a particular time which is a fraction of God’s story. We all need to know that we are part of a much bigger story, a story in which Jesus Christ is the hero throughout, and not us! Expository preaching forces us to locate ourselves in God’s story, giving perspective to our own experiences.
So many Christians limp through their lives surviving on a few favourite verses; that's great, but there is so much more of God to know! Often people struggle to understand what the Bible is saying. When done well, expository preaching should help to equip the listener to understand what the Bible actually means. When this happens, alongside discipleship and more direct training, people can begin to enjoy more regularly hearing from God for themselves, everytime they open the Bible.
Imagine finding yourself in the middle of a battle field with a weapon you don’t understand how to use. You’ll likely be scared and ineffective, and might possible hurt yourself with said weapon! Ephesians 6:17 is clear that Christians need to be able to “take up... the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”. This is said in the context of spiritual warfare, in which Christians are taking shots from the enemy. Expository preaching is a training ground for wielding God’s word, just like Jesus did in the desert when he was tempted by the devil and quoted from Deuteronomy to go on the attack!
The whole Bible really is all about Jesus, just as Jesus himself said about the scriptures then in John 5:39:
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me
It’s all about him, the whole lot. Whether the subject is Solomon and his wisdom, Jonah and a fish, lambs being slain, staircases to heaven or everything else, in one way or another it all testifies about him. In fact, we see Jesus approach things in a systematic way when chatting with a couple of his disciples- “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:27). I wish i’d been in that teaching session!
So, there’s a handful of reasons why Preston needs systematic expository preaching. If you’ve never been exposed to this approach, come along and find out what it’s like at a Christ Central Preston meeting soon.
By Andy Williams
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Meeting every Sunday, 10:30am at St Pius Preparatory School, 200 Garstang Rd, Fulwood, Preston PR2 8RD.