Last time I posted, I made the case for preaching the next lines, not the headlines. Os Guinness wrote, “He who marries the spirit of the age soon becomes a widower.” Tracking cultural trends from the pulpit is ultimately an exhausting carousel. I’d like to make an argument for sequential exposition as the regular diet for your church. If you read my last offering on PS23, sorry for the redundancy, but for clarity let me say it again, I’m not making a case for never preaching a topic or theme. But on balance, I believe sequential exposition is the best practice.*
22 Benefits of Sequential Exposition
- You proclaim the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). Lets’ face it, there are some verses or doctrines you may be tempted to avoid.
- You speak God’s Word. Don’t forget that God inspired the scriptures. There is power in his Word because it’s his Word.
- You avoid hobby horse preaching. It’s easy to default to a favorite topic or doctrine that you know and love.
- You must develop your skill as an interpreter. Some passages and genres are harder than others. Learning how to navigate prophecy, narrative, apocalyptic literature, and poetry will make you a better exegete overall.
- You must develop your skill as an exhorter. Similar to the point above, some passages are easier to see the implication and application. Work to bring home the salient features of a narrative to the heart.
- You must deal with each passage in its context. It’s way too easy to cherry-pick a verse and misrepresent it!
- You are forced to round out your theology as you deal with hard and various passages. Preaching books forces you to understand something like sovereignty and responsibility in light of John 3 and Romans 9.
- You teach your congregation how to read and interpret the Bible. This is key. Everytime you preach, you are teaching your congregation how to study their Bibles. The best pattern is not a random assortment of verses, but learning to read their Bibles as they are written.
- You demonstrate a high value of the Scriptures. If we believe the Bible is God-breathed, wouldn’t we want to let the Word be prominent?
- You can’t take credit for gospel fruitfulness. As Luther said about the Reformation, the Word did it all.
- Your sermons will tend to be more God-centered than man-centered. Keeping an eye on context keeps an eye on the Lord, overall.
- You allow the Spirit of God to set the agenda for the weekly service. God wrote it in order. Just as the early church gathered to read the epistles, we gather to look at the Word and give a sense of what it means.
- You equip your people to confront false teaching. As you are forced to deal with diverse text, your people learn how to see what doesn’t line up.
- Your message will tend towards God’s redemptive plan in Christ. Sequential exposition allows you to “zoom out” until you hit the redemptive theme.
- You do not have to worry about what to preach next. This is big for me. I know where I’m going. I would go crazy if I were trying to dream up something new weekly. Anecdotally, it wasn’t until I saw exposition that I wanted to preach.
- You are not allowed to be a lazy preacher! Exegesis is hard work to get it right.
- You avoid mere emotionalism in preaching. While emotions are fine and God-given, sequential exposition tends to not accent mere emotions but accents the truth (which should drive emotion).
- You emphasize God’s authority rather than your authority. I love that sequential exposition plants a flag to say, “God wrote it, I’m preaching it.”
- Your personality as a preacher is minimized. Similar to emotions, personality isn’t bad, but as you get into the flow of a narrative or epistle, you begin to feel the flow of the text and something of the personality of the preacher is minimized.
- You are able to frame doctrinal differences around the Bible rather than individuals. As you are forced into hard text, you are able to present various views of a subject. Make it about interpreting passages, not about personalities.
- Your worship practices will inevitably be examined by the Scriptures. Why do we do what we do on a given week? Sequential exposition opens an examination on your practices.
- You match biblical examples like Ezra 7:10; Nehemiah 8:1-8; and 2 Tim 4:2. Studying the Word, preaching the Word, giving a sense of what the Word means — these are all consistent with sequential exposition.
*I would also recommend an article recently posted by my friend Dr. Tom Hicks over at the founder’s blog. Some of these thoughts were inspired by Tom’s response to a question I posted on social media. Others also contributed some valuable thoughts to this discussion.