Why Pentecostals Don’t Preach Expository Sermons
- Tuesday, May 01, 2007
I am an expository preacher, and I am also a Pentecostal. Admittedly, these two categories are not often used in the same sentence, much less to describe the same person. But why is that, when so many of the convictions that shape each view are similar—a high view of biblical authority, a reliance on the Holy Spirit to empower our preaching, and a shared desire to let biblical truth meet human need?
After having thought, read, and asked around regarding those questions, I have come up with some possible answers. None of these are intended to be critical of Pentecostals (of which I proudly count myself); rather they are suggestions for why we have not characteristically been more interested in expository preaching.
1. We Mistake Expository Preaching for a Method Instead of a Philosophy.
Many preachers were introduced to expository preaching as one approach among many, rather than seeing it as guiding principle—i.e., the main idea of the text will be the basis for the main idea of the sermon. Once that guiding principle is in place, the form the sermon takes (inductive, deductive, narrative, illustrated) varies depending upon what will best communicate to the audience. The form a sermon may take changes; what does not change is that the text governs the sermon. Expository preaching is a philosophy not a method.
2. We Have Seen Expository Preaching Done Badly.
Expository preaching has suffered in the hands of its friends. Well-meaning preachers have thought that to be expository meant to offer their listeners nothing more than a running commentary on a text or heavy exposition and little application. Nothing will dissuade Pentecostal preachers more than an approach to preaching that appears dry or unrelated to the needs of people.
Fortunately a commitment to expository preaching does not require we choose between relevant application and biblical content. As one of my preaching professors said in seminary, "Application justifies and focuses the exposition."
3. We Don't Believe Expository Preaching Allows Us to Deal with Contemporary Issues.
On the surface, this concern seems genuinely valid. However, probe a little deeper and you will see that clear exposition of the Bible will make one address several contemporary issues (some which many of us would prefer to avoid!). As an experiment, try to preach a book series through the book of James, or the Sermon on the Mount, the book of Corinthians, maybe the Ten Commandments and watch how contemporary your preaching becomes.
4. We Have Misunderstood Our Source of Authority.
By what authority does the preacher speak? The ultimate authority of the sermon does not reside in the preacher's call, or in the preacher's position, but in the Scripture being preached. Authority can only come when one can say, "Thus says the Lord"; and this cannot be said until what is being preached actually comes from the Bible properly interpreted and applied.
5. We Believe that Making Room for Expository Preaching Means not Leaving Any Place for other Approaches to Communicating the Gospel.
Preaching involves the proclaiming of the gospel and sees the preacher as a messenger, or herald of that gospel. Technically, it is not a sermon unless the Bible is being explained and applied. This does not mean there should not be a prominent place for speeches, reflections,testimonies, etc. givenfrom behind the pulpit nor does it follow from this that there is no place for other mediums of communication or an expansive use of the arts. But it is helpful to understand the difference so that there is a clear understanding of the function and importance of each.
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