How should we preach?

It seems strange to me when Christians demand that for preaching to be biblical, it  must conform to a certain style of sermon delivery. For them they state that exegetical preaching is the only ‘valid’ style of preaching. Yet, does the Biblical witness actually allow for this style of preaching to be called the only valid method of preaching?

And when we look to the Scriptures themselves as our guide as to how we are to preach and deliver a sermon, we soon run into some difficulties. For we soon find there are many styles, types, and methods of preaching. Through out the OT and NT we find that story telling is the main methodology of preaching. Moses is considered to have written the first 5 books of the Bible, and within them, we find the story which he told, and the story which was passed down from generation to generation. In fact, its said, that most 7 year old boys in their era, could recount those books verbally.

We are also faced with the difficulty in that the original scriptures were not broken down into chapter and verse numbers, nor did they have chapter titles. The NT epistles were actually written to a church as a complete sermon in and of themselves. They were never read, and expounded on within their churches verse by verse, chapter by chapter. Instead, they were read as one complete unit. It seems unusual then that we would break down each verse and chapter and preach on it as we do.

Now, I am not saying this is a bad thing…what I am saying is that we have little Biblical warrant to do so. In the NT we are shown a number of styles of sermons, none of them are exegetical sermons of the OT.  Mostly they are exhortational sermons, which address the need at hand. In many ways, they are even topical. Take Philemon as an example. Jude is an exceptional example of a NT sermon. His style is to exhort and encourage his readers to remain faithful. In no way shape or form, can you find any hint of a exegetical sermon within that book. He doesn’t even seem to refer to any Scripture and he even refers to an ancient non canonical book  as adding some authority to his message.

Therefore as preachers we need to explore more deeply, the methods in which we can ‘best’ employ, to tell the gospel story, to build up the community of the faithful, to encourage our congregations to live out their faith and to share and teach the Bible as our story of faith. After all, that is what the NT preachers did themselves. I have two main methods of preaching…one is to exegete a passage – but my favourite method is to tell the story of what the Scriptures are actually saying…and when I hit my stride, I rarely reference a Scripture with chapter or verse – instead, I will say that in this book, this person says this, or this person did that and just get on the business of telling the story.

Anyway,  to all you sermon purists out there, those of you who state that exegetical preaching is the best, if not the only way to go. Just what is the basis on which you make that claim? Do you actually have Scriptural support to back that claim up? And if you don’t actually have Scriptural support to making that claim; are you actually guilty of adding to Scripture, that which Scripture doesn’t actually demand?


About Craig Benno

I'm an average aussie guy who has lived perhaps a not so average life.
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6 Responses to How should we preach?

  1. Eclipse Now says:

    Is the following quote helpful?

    Exegesis is about drawing out the meaning that is in a text. Eisegesis is about reading into a text the meaning you want to impose on it. Sad to say there is a lot of eisegetical preaching around these days (probably always has been). Nevertheless, there really isn’t a category of biblical preaching that is somehow good and helpful, but isn’t exegetical. Whether you are looking at five verses, four separate verses, three chapters or two whole testaments . . . the work underlying the message should be exegetical. There is no other legitimate way.

    In other words, should we teach what the bible teaches and not just superimpose our preferences on the text? Absolutely!

    There’s more here. It’s short and sweet and I think, entirely accurate.

    • Craig Benno says:

      Well said. I actually like that blog and have followed it for a while. I like how they have said that the important part is how we exegete the Scriptures and not how we present it, which makes the difference.

  2. Drewe says:

    It’s a tough line, and one I think we can easily turn into legalism.

    I think the main point of the scripture method of ‘verse by verse’ is that it covers everything – there is much less room for a preacher who does this to ‘choose his topic’, or to avoid things while over emphasizing others.

    Good point – but it is not a scriptural command, thou shalt preach verse by verse.

    So take the encouragement, and do what you have done – examine the criticism with an open heart to make sure you are right with God (not man) in these things, and then move on. There may be something you can learn, and yet, there may be nothing – it could just be one persons opinion.

    If you have a Kindle (or other device) I have John MacArthur’s book on ‘rediscovering exegetical preaching’. I didn’t finish it, he made good points, but like you said – it is more about preference than anything from what I can see.

  3. Third question: Have you ever heard a preacher preach an expository sermon and it sounded like he was reading a history book? That’s abuse of this type of preaching. We don’t need a history lesson; we need a sermon that speaks to us personally.

  4. Eclipse Now says:

    Unless of course you need a little history to understand the context of the passage. There’s no need to completely abandon hermeneutics just to be ‘personal’. One has to do some intellectual work to get the original meaning of the passage to the original audience, then place it in the unfolding plan of God between the Old Testament and New Testament, and then eventually through the gospel lens apply it to our generation. Abandoning any step in this process can lead to all manner of horrors like applying Old Testament food laws to today’s Christians living under grace. (For a really boring example).

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