Topical Preaching is Not the Problem

by Patrick Schreiner September 21, 2015

I am a big fan of expositional preaching. I want to see someone work through a book of the Bible, follow the narrative, hit the hard passages, struggle through the argument, and not get stuck on their horses that hobble. I like to see someone throw themselves on the Bible and admit to their congregation that their wisdom comes from above through the Word.  

But I have noticed that for many the antithesis to expositional preaching is topical preaching. But topical preaching is not the problem. The problem is a lack of biblical and theological preaching.

The contrast between expositional vs. topical preaching is natural. So many times topical preaching becomes sermons like “5 Ways to Save Your Money” or “Easter is More than Something to Dye For” or “Hipster Jesus Loved You Before You Were Cool” or “Jesus is the Rizzle for Shizzle.”

But the problem with these sermons is not necessarily that they are topical, but that they are not biblical or theological.

With the renaissance of expositional preaching (something I am thankful for), I have found that some pastors are wary of any topical preaching because of the strong wind in the other direction.

While I think the regular diet of a congregation should be expositional preaching, I want to make a case for intermittent topical preaching. There are times when a pastor needs to remind people of the vision of the church; times when it is good to have a sermon on prayer, or evangelism, or (God forbid) even money since Jesus talked about it so much. There are times when the congregation should spend a few weeks thinking about the ordinances, the doctrine of God. There are weeks where suffering should the topic, racial reconciliation, abortion, sexual ethics, manhood, womanhood.

All these sermons can be biblical, theological, and topical, without necessarily being called expositional preaching. Now some might argue that expositional preaching would include these type of sermons if a text is used and expounded.

But what I am advocating is even more than that. What if there was not just one text the pastor used for the doctrine of man but traced the failings of mankind throughout Scripture and even history more generally. Some might say that still fits inside the category of expositional preaching while others would say it falls outside of it.

My point though is not to get into a debate about the definition of expositional preaching, but rather to allow some belt room for pastors who think it would be good for their church to stop and spend five weeks on topical issues.

Are there dangers to topical preaching? Certainly. But there are also dangers to expositional preaching and looking at the stars, and we are not telling people to stop doing these things.