What is expository preaching?

Over more than 25 years of editing Preaching magazine, and even longer studying the history of Christian preaching, one of the things I have learned is that preaching never stands still. Effective preaching is constantly adapting to the cultural realities around it, yet it stays rooted to the Word of God as revealed in Scripture.

Have you ever flown a kite? Think of how a kite moves with the wind, yet it is linked to the ground by a string. You might think that if you cut the string, the kite would soar even higher, but that’s not what happens. If you cut the string, the kite would soon come tumbling down and land in the trees or crash to the ground. Preaching is just a bit like that kite – it moves and adapts as the cultural and social winds blow, but it always must stay linked to the Word of God. If preaching ever becomes disconnected from the Word, it soon comes crashing to earth.

Now that is not a perfect image for preaching, because in reality we should not blow with every cultural wind that comes along. Yet it is true that preaching must be in touch with the lives of people – recognizing the challenges faced by each successive generation, and finding new methods to effectively connect and engage with people. Preaching adapts and changes, but it must never lose its connection to Scripture. Preaching is ultimately and always the communication of what God has said in His Word; when we are no longer saying what God has said, we are no longer preaching.

That being said, authentic Christian preaching, then, is proclamation that is rooted in and driven by the biblical text. That does not necessarily mean we are always doing verse-by-verse exposition of the text, but it does mean we are letting the text drive the sermon – what God is saying in the biblical text is what we will try to communicate in the sermon. That is expository preaching.

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