There are ample articles, books, and resources on expositional preaching and its biblical roots, practical and theological benefits, and its life-giving health to the church. As helpful as those resources are, they do not always prepare you for the actual experience of expository preaching. They do not always confess the difficulty of expository preaching or encourage you to stay the course of expository preaching. Maybe the experience of an expository preacher can encourage.
I recently finished preaching through the gospel of Luke in three and a half years. That is over 36 months and a little more than 150 sermons. Here are the unforeseen benefits that our church experienced as a result of this long-haul look at Luke’s Gospel that I hope will encourage you in your own expository preaching.
This practice began to reveal itself early. There were a few who made the commitment at the beginning of our walk through Luke to be there for as many Luke sermons as possible. Those people also committed to taking notes each sermon in their own journals. Now at the end, they have a commentary in their own words on every verse in Luke’s gospel. They now have the potential to look back at any time in their lives to see what they thought about any passage in Luke’s gospel. This proved itself a blessing and a sobering responsibility to me. It is through this practice that I came to realize that in my preaching I am shaping a lifetime of biblical understanding and belief. And yet, I wouldn’t trade that responsibility for anything. It is a great honor to realize that people are now equipped through their own notes to know God’s Word better and therefore know Jesus better. That was the whole point of walking through Luke’s gospel.
Our church needed to be better grounded in our practices. Spending so much time in Luke’s gospel helped us to not only be grounded, but disciplined in our commitment. To be honest, there were times of difficulty. A few times I personally wanted to give up and move on to something else. At other times our church was ready for something else. But we stuck it out and found the Word of God to be lifegiving and refreshing! This taught us that disciplining ourselves to such worthy commitments would ultimately prove to be good. A few times I had to encourage our church to stay the course – that it will be worth it. A few times they encouraged me to stay the course – that they were growing. It was a collaborative effort! And it helped us to stay the course together, to see a ministry or work through to the end. More than once this commitment proved to be a window to see God’s providence in putting sermons together with events, studies, and happenings in other areas of the life of our church. We wouldn’t have seen these wonderful works of God if we had not been disciplined in our commitment.
Promotion of Thoroughness
Verse by verse preaching can be hard. At times it can feel redundant. Each passage is unique, but often many passages connect together to drive a central theme. Nevertheless, as we looked at every verse in Luke’s gospel, we began to see the value in thoroughness. We dove deeper than moral lessons or self-help talks. We went deeper than therapy or encouragement. We asked the hard questions. We addressed the hard passages. We always asked why. Why is this word used? Why is this passage in this place? Why did Luke include this account? This promoted a serious contemplation of Scripture and its intended purpose. As a result, thoroughness became a distinguishing mark for our church. We contemplated every part of Luke’s gospel and came to find that God’s Word is written, compiled, and structured for a very important reason. It is revealing to us God and His plan of redemption very precisely. And in that precision, we see God’s sovereign hand guiding us, teaching us, and caring for us.
Centered on Scripture
A church must build everything upon the Bible. Our people love the Bible. But walking through Luke’s Gospel made our commitment even more serious. Not only were we asking why Luke wrote the way he did, but we were also asking if our lives and ministries had any scriptural warrant. Even more than that, the preaching in our church, specifically the expository nature of it, became our identity. When people talked about our church they talked about our progress through Luke. When people in our community heard about our church they heard about our preaching through Luke. Further still, when we finished Luke, the immediate question became, “What book are we going through next?” It is now the expectation. We are a people who want to walk through and consider every verse of Scripture. The eagerness for what is coming next is larger than it is for any other event, program, or ministry we have ever done. Our church is excited about considering another book of scripture with such detail.
Verse by verse expository preaching can be daunting. It can wear on the preacher and stretch the people of the church in their commitment and endurance. But it is always worth it. Aside from all the other obvious benefits – a high priority on Scripture, a comprehensive view and diet of Scripture, addressing all that God addresses – there are unforeseen and unexpected benefits that not only thrill and excite the heart of the preacher, but also completely change the life and culture of the church. It is no surprise that God’s Word does a mighty work in our churches. That has always been God’s plan. But you might be surprised and full of gratitude to see God accomplish things you would have never imagined!