I hope you’ll consider joining me on November 13 for The Gospel Coalition Arizona’s one-day event focused on expository preaching.
I have valued expository preaching for many years. As a college student I grew immensely under faithful expository preaching. It was not only authoritative but also a helpful model for how to engage with the Scriptures on my own. So, when I became a preacher, I eagerly practiced expository preaching.
Over the years, I’ve read numerous books and heard many conference messages on the value of expository preaching. While these resources have been valuable, they often seem to be preaching to the choir. People who attend conferences put on by Desiring God, Together for the Gospel, The Gospel Coalition, Ligonier or 9Marks tend to be people who already agree with these ministries’ approach to preaching.
So, when I read a book written by leaders from Willow Creek — the church that pioneered and popularized seeker-sensitive ministry — and heard them advocate for expository preaching, I was amazed.
The book was Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth. In it, Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson share their most significant insights about how people grow, based on research across five years, 1,000 churches and over 200,000 church attendees across all kinds of denominations and traditions. Move was filled with insightful lessons and is a must-read for anybody in pastoral ministry.
Hawkins and Parkinson identify five best-practices that were evident in all the churches that demonstrated the highest degree of spiritual growth. One of these best practices is “Embed the Bible in Everything.” The authors argue that while many churches believe the Bible is important, not all of them really make the Bible part of everything they do.
This diagnosis didn’t surprise me, but the prescription shocked me. According to Hawkins and Parkinson, what is a key strategy for churches to help people love the Scriptures?
“Make the Bible the main course of the message. While there is great debate over the most effective way to teach God’s Word, a number of best-practice churches lean toward the expository-teaching style… The most important takeaway about teaching from best-practice pastors is that they all start the preparation of their messages with Scripture… Their starting point is the Word, followed by application to the world.”
There it is. Leaders from Willow Creek advocating for expository preaching. How could this be?
I kept reading and it made more sense. After hundreds of thousands of surveys, do you know what was the #1 factor in spiritual growth was for people across the spectrum of spiritual experience? Engaging personally with the Bible. Furthermore, do you know what was the #1 thing people said they wanted from their church? “Help me understand the Bible in depth.”
Of course, expository preaching isn’t the only way to help people engage personally with the Bible or understand it in depth. But it is a proven way that, perhaps, you should consider.
Your Fellow Servant,
Redemption Church Gateway