Since the time I first arrived at the church here in Sedro Woolley I have longed to do one thing faithfully and continually––preach Christ (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23).
I was clear and have never wavered that the method in which I believed we must do this is what is commonly called expository preaching.
This is a method that has been carried down through history and it has one main goal that stands apart from other methods and preaching.
There are, in fact, three main methods (or styles) in preaching and it may prove beneficial for them to be broken down in their definition.
The first is Topical. This is a method that seeks to draw out of Scripture a topic. Sometimes this is done in the proper practice of explaining scripture and utilizing scripture in context, but other times it is a clumsy way of gathering all the verses that fit the preachers topic. Either way, this is not the method I ever preach. *[I do often joke about teaching a method I call “exa-topical”. What I mean when I say this is that I teach a Biblical topic and highlight scriptures that explain it within an exposition—this is different than most topical teaching today].
Another method is called exegetical. This is a very in-depth type of preaching style. This type is filled with break downs of specific words or details in the text. One who preaches this style might be very microscopic in their method or macroscopic—but the idea of this method is to draw out details and convey all pertinent (or even non pertinent) information. *[Sometimes I would say I am an exegetical expositor. I desire to take only a few verses at a time, allowing us to get the close up view and also to zoom out and get the 10,000 ft. view].
So, one might say I venture off into these other methods at times, but I restrain it all within what is called expository preaching.
So why expository preaching? Because where these other methods may seek to make much of man and his interaction and his work with God (especially in wrongful topical methods)--expository preaching seeks to make much of Christ, and Him crucified (1 Corinth. 2:1-5).
This method has an aim and a goal—to preach the whole council of God (Acts 20:27), which ultimately points people again and again to ‘Christ, and Him crucified.’
In training other men to be expositors I find that this method even restrains me in a helpful way to not make others into little me’s, but rather, it points them to go back to the Word.
This is because expository preaching is about exposure. It is the aim and goal to expose the true meaning of the text, the author’s intended meaning or theme. This is why we don’t ever gather for “thus saith Pastor David” but for “thus saith the LORD.”
But this method is not just about the proclamation of the Word. This method also carries with it a deep desire for the application of the Word—both for the one in the pulpit [me] and the one in the pew [you].
So as I study throughout the week, I take time praying for you and studying with application in mind that will draw you into a deeper relationship with Christ—that you would ‘seek to make much of Christ, and Him crucified’.
And so, consider this question: what is your role in the preaching of the Word?
If there is application to be applied and the Word is living and active (2 Timothy 3:16-17), then we must be intentional and active in how we listen.
I was challenged in this a while back by one of our elder as we both listened to another preach. I was quite the distraction and my fellow elder was honest in informing me of this.
I, of course, felt the sting of conviction but I also felt the urge of action. I watched as he took notes (not just the ones provided week after week, but on his own notebook). It was filled with questions and scripture references and quotes from the preaching.
Since then I have sought to be a faithful expositional listener. Some might think that taking notes distracts from actually hearing the preacher but I would contend that it does the opposite. Every time I take notes when another is preaching I learn more about the text and am challenged to apply it in my own Christian life. I also retain it more.
I can share with you sermons that I learned from weeks or months prior that I took notes on but ones that I sat there listening (and quite honestly getting distracted by other things) I could not remember it’s contents if I were paid or forced.
I have also found that this is a way that I can serve my wife while she is often the one to tend to our boys. By working to be an expositional listener, and take faithful notes, I am able to later share with her the intended point and application of the Word. This has become a wonderful topic after service when others are preaching or we are visiting other churches.
And I believe this is a profound practice that will challenge you to grow in the Word. So I pray that you will consider how you can be an expositional listener. And really, why wouldn’t you be?
There are many excuses and reason for not doing this but none that I can think of give reason for why we would be lazy or loose with the Word. I am not contenting for all to be astute in the preachers words, but I do find it fascinating that the ones who more deeply love Christ’s Church and long to grow in Christ are those that seek to hear, take in, and further know God’s Word on the Lord’s Day.
And I think largely this is because the true expositional listener sets their mind on what the exposition is pointing to--Christ.
They are not searching for what fills them that week, how they are “fed”, or what they got out of it. The genuine expositional listener is intent on learning and growing in what they are going to put into their lives, by the power of God and help of the Holy Spirit.
So church, I long for us all to be expositional listeners. To take serious the Word that is preached and the work that is done to present the Word to us, week after week.
I would even go as far as to say, I urge you to put this into practice. If you feel nothing after the preaching of the word, may it be that you’ve done nothing during the preaching of the Word? *[In this I am referring to the Christian, not an unregenerate/unsaved person].
In conclusion, consider what is said, what questions are asked, what verses and passages are shared in a sermon. And like a good Berean (Acts 17:11), ‘examine the Scriptures daily to see if these things are so…’
Brothers and sisters, be diligent in your listening, ask questions and seek answers in the Word. Grow in maturity and grace! And put not pressure on progress. Everyone starts somewhere. Again, I am not calling for perfect note taking. I am challenging you to take the Word preached and presented seriously, because when the exposition is faithful, what you should walk away hearing and applying is the Word from your shepherd (John 10:4).
I love you dearly and pray these things for you!