Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The great privilege of consecutive expository preaching

When I started out in local pastoral ministry just over four years ago I had no idea just how enriching consecutive preaching through a book of the Bible would be. Of course I had hoped that it would be, but those hopes were jostling for space in my mind with anxieties about sustaining such preaching week in week out . Thankfully the congregation were not daunted when, after five weeks, we were halfway through the word "in" in Genesis 1:1.

The sustained study of the text in context, explained, proved, illustrated and applied to the varying needs of our hearers is a remarkable spiritual discipline. It has forced me to understand, interpret and explain the harder parts of Scripture that you can avoid if your preaching is topical. It has also made me realise something of the great riches of Scripture as new avenues of thought and the interconnectedness of God's written revelation opened up.

It is also the greatest way for our thoughts and lives as preachers to be moulded by the truth over a sustained period of time. Your soul can absorb more and more of a particular book, and do that within the warp and woof of local church life. What can compare with the Word of God coming into contact with and meeting the needs of people in the ups and downs of life? Quite simply it is a great privilege and one that I am deeply thankful for.


Paul said...

Do you also go consecutively through the books of the Bible? Is there a good way using this approach to avoid sticking to the bits of the Bible you find comfortable (rather than preaching the whole counsel of God)?

I have a particular concern for the 12 (Minor Prophets) and most pastors I speak to find them trickier and few seem to want to preach them.

There are other parts of scripture which go mostly ignored, even by consecutive expositors. Any thoughts?

Martin Downes said...

A varied diet I'm sure is good, seeking a balance with OT/NT, different genres etc. Having never heard any sermons on Lamentations I preached through it in five goes about 18 months back.

There is nothing quite like getting to grips with the unfamiliar and the neglected books and showing their relevance to the world, church, and christian.

Martin Downes said...

Dare I say it but is it not the case that you can spend too long on a book? Or be as selective in choosing books as you would be with topics?

Paul said...

That's what I was wondering.

At the end of the day, a church fed over 10 years on a combination of Genesis, Psalms, Isaiah, John and Romans will probably be well fed (just picking the best known of each major genre). So it is a relatively minor issue; more worrying is when a genre is totally missing.

Nevertheless, as you say, I'm sure most laypeople are scared off reading the less well known books because they rarely see preachers tackle passages they're uncomfortable with.

Bill Hornbeck said...

Thank you for this great article!

I am a layman who posts his meditations of consequtive Scripture passages, and I do see the benefit of such consequtive expository preaching and teaching. One of the benefits is that you better understand (and don't forget) the context of any passage.

Just yesterday, I was meditating on the "Cost of Discipleship" in Matthew 16:24-27. I remembered and was able to use the immediate prior passage, although cut off by section description and subject matter.

Here is what I wrote: "Notice the context. This passage of Scripture is immediately below verses 21-23: “… Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. … But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Matthew 16:23. Jesus showed how He was denying Himself and taking up His cross. In other words, according to this first insight, Jesus was thus calling His disciples to costly discipleship only by first showing His example from which His disciples could follow His example."

I may have missed this connection if was not involved in such consequtive Scripture passages teaching. Thank you again for this confirmation.

Jonathan Hunt said...

I preached Genesis in 35 messages (leaving out a small bit of rape and spillage by request of elderly ladies)...

So Im not quite as intense as you are - but it has been one of the crowning blessings of my life to preach consecutively.

Family Blogs said...

Thanks for this lovely meditation Martin. I was involved in pastoral ministry for 7 years in Ulster, and was so enriched through contact with the Word and consecutive preaching.

I'm currently engaged in missionary work in Peru, and I miss the discipline and blessing of expository preaching a great deal.

Really enjoy your blog.