What makes for good preaching? There are any number of potential answers to that important question. It could be that a sermon is clear and well-organised. It could be application that speaks to the heart. Or it could just be the presence of enough stories and jokes to keep your attention.
Of course, all of those things contribute towards good preaching, but there is one thing above those things that distinguishes good preaching as truly ‘good’.
It is, quite simply, to say what God says.
If Scripture represents the very words of God (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21), then when we open the Book in order to open our mouths, we want to say nothing less and nothing more than what it says. Our sermons may be clear, well-organised, incisive, and engaging, but if they are not faithful to the biblical text, then they cannot truly be regarded as ‘good’.
In pursuit of ‘good’ preaching at BPCC, then, we have decided to adopt the approach of expository or expositional preaching. A good definition of expository preaching is simply: “Preaching based on a significant Bible passage so that the sermon's principal lessons originate in Scripture and are applied to a present human need.” The key element of expository preaching is that it “emerges directly and demonstrably from a passage or passages of Scripture.” In fact, the word exposition is related to the word expose, which further clarifies the goal of expository preaching—to expose the meaning of the Bible. We want to clearly and incisively say what God says.
This is why, over the last few years at BPCC, we have decided to predominantly preach through books of the Bible (including so far, Philippians, Genesis [broadly], Mark, & Proverbs) and will continue to do so into 2016 (sermon series in Amos and Ephesians are planned for Term 1 & 2).
In case you’re not yet convinced, below are 6 reasons given by theologian D.A. Carson as to why a church should pursue expository preaching:
1. It is the method least likely to stray from Scripture.
If you are preaching on what the Bible says about self-esteem, for example, undoubtedly you can find some useful insights. But even when you say entirely true things, you will likely abstract them from the Bible's central story line. Expository preaching keeps you to the main thing.
2. It teaches people how to read their Bibles.
Especially if you're preaching a long passage, expository preaching teaches people how to think through a passage, how to understand and apply God's Word to their lives.
3. It gives confidence to the preacher and authorises the sermon.
If you are faithful to the text, you are certain your message is God's message. Regardless of what is going on in the church—whether it is growing or whether people like you—you know you are proclaiming God's truth. That is wonderfully freeing.
4. It meets the need for relevance without letting the clamour for relevance dictate the message.
All true preaching is properly applied. That is of extraordinary importance in our generation. But expository preaching keeps the eternal central to the discussion.
5. It forces the preacher to handle the tough questions.
You start working through text after text, and soon you hit passages on divorce, on homosexuality, on women in ministry, and you have to deal with the text.
6. It enables the preacher to expound systematically the whole counsel of God.
If we are to preach the whole counsel of God, we must teach the whole Bible. Other sermonic structures have their merits, but none offers our congregations more, week after week, than careful, faithful exposition of the Word of God.