I believe we are seeing this Scripture before our eyes in ways previous generations did not. There are three basic types of preaching I have seen over the years; encouraging, editorial, and expository. While I believe there is a place for encouragement and addressing current events, this must come from the text of Scripture, not the text of Scripture being used to fit the other.
Paul told Timothy that there would come a time when people wouldn’t endure sound doctrine. We could say, they won’t want to hear the truth. Because so many believers today have primarily heard encouragement and editorial talks from their pastors, when they do hear Biblical truth they call it religious, legalism, or you’re a Pharisee. I’m not against encouragement, it just depends on how you go about it.
This past Sunday I was watching the service from Grace Baptist Church in Papillon, Nebraska and the pastor said, “there is a difference between preaching from the text and preaching the text.” If you preach from the text, you can pull any verse out of its proper context and make the Bible say anything you want it to. Many times this is what happens with encouraging preaching. They take a everyday life issue, find a text and make the text about you. The Bible is not about us, it’s about Jesus. David and Goliath were real people and Israel was up against a literal army. I’m not David, my faith isn’t a stone, and my problem isn’t Goliath.
Does God want us to be encouraged? Yes, encouraged to take up our cross and follow Jesus. But when the message is solely about us and our happiness and believing for a new house or a better job, we have left the message of Scripture. Now God will and does bless us but it’s not from our faith or the misuse of Scripture. Encouraging preaching focuses on this life and if our entire Christian life is focused on this life, 1 Corinthians 15:19 says that we are of all men most miserable. We are to store up treasures in heaven. If the message you hear on Sunday could pass for a Ted Talk, you don’t have a pastor, you have a life coach. I was talking to a friend today and she said a lot of preachers are no different than a life coach but it’s no good for the afterlife.
The editorial style of preaching is similar to the encouraging but instead of teaching the text of Scripture, the pastor teaches from personal stories and ties the Scripture into their story. If you go to a charismatic church the message might start with, the Lord gave me a word today or I had a vision, or the Lord gave me a dream. Some verses may make an appearance or references thrown up on the screen, but the Bible isn’t being preached, the dream is.
As I said at the beginning of the post, I am not against being encouraging and I even think current events should be talked about at times, but in light of Scripture. The first time I ever heard expository or expositional preaching was in 2008 when I was going to Riverwalk Fellowship and Pastor Steve Solomon preached verse by verse through Romans chapter eight for nine months.
If you’ve never heard the phrase expository or expositional it means you are teaching verse by verse through a book of the Bible. It pays more attention to the meaning of the text and it explains what the Bible means by what it says. Most modern preaching focuses on what does this mean to you, whereas expositional preaching focuses on what does the text say and what does it mean. We tend to focus on application these days but you can’t apply the Scripture unless you understand it first.
I hear lots of people say they wish they could understand the Bible. We could understand the Bible if we read it all the way through and studied it book by book. Quit doing topical studies that just pulls verses from everywhere. If you’re going to truly understand a verse you have to understand its context. That means starting with three verses before it and three verses after it. Then go a step further and read the chapter. When we understand Scripture in context we will then know how to apply it.
Take some time today and read Second Peter chapter one. Peter says we have been given all things that pertain to life and godliness and that we have a more sure prophetic word. We have the Scriptures, that’s what we need to hear from the pulpit. Stories may be engaging but they aren’t transforming. Besides that, pastors shouldn’t be engaging people with their lives from the pulpit but from the texts of Scripture.
If you’ve been struggling in your walk with the Lord, ask yourself what kind of preaching have you been hearing. Your spiritual weakness may be helped by the lack of nourishment from your pastor. With that being said it is important that you have your own time to read and study the Scripture but your pastor is supposed to be a help in that area.