Friday, 7 July 2006

The myth of expository preaching

An interesting post on the myth of expository preaching has generated some valuable discussion at Rhettsmith, Awakening, and many other blogs.

I think this is a topic well worth discussing. I myself appreciate good expository preaching, but I have also seen expository preaching carried out as a kind of joyless textual legalism. And, of course, in many cases a line-by-line exposition of a biblical passage (e.g. of a narrative or a parable) is actually unfaithful to the character of the text itself. One can hardly communicate a parable by breaking it down into separate lines or verses—rather, one can communicate a parable only by evoking it as a whole, in such a way that the original language-event takes place again in the present. (In the same way, one communicates a joke not by expounding it, but by re-telling it).

So I think the problem with any single preaching “model” is not only that it will tend towards a narrow legalism, but also that it will fail to do justice to the diversity of Scripture itself.

And this immediately raises the (far more important) material problem: The purpose of preaching is not to proclaim the Bible, but to proclaim the gospel—or rather, to proclaim Jesus Christ himself as Lord. Expository preaching is an excellent thing if it brings Jesus Christ into the foreground and witnesses to him; but such preaching has failed completely whenever the text itself is made the object of attention, whenever the text rather than Jesus Christ is brought into the foreground.

In the privacy of her own study, of course, the preacher must engage as deeply as possible with the text. But she does so not in order to speak about the text, but in order to communicate the reality to which the text bears witness.


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