At our church we preach through the Bible verse-by-verse and chapter-by-chapter, taking time carefully explain each passage as it comes up. It’s fair to say that not everyone thinks that this approach is a worthy one.
There are a number of reasons why a minister might not want to preach verse-by-verse and not all of them are bad reasons. Sometimes there are specific issues to address. Sometimes there might be a need to spend time to fully explain an idea before ploughing ahead.
But having said that, it is my conviction that the majority of preaching on a Sunday should be verse-by-verse preaching, methodically explaining the text and making it plain. Why? Because that’s how we hear from God best.
The trouble with a constant diet of topical sermons is that the preacher can be tempted to never cover the difficult texts or address contentious issues. And the congregation can end up hearing a lot about what their preacher thinks, rather than what God has said. To be fair, it is possible to preach verse-by-verse in such a way that the people don’t hear from God at all, but in the main, this is a problem that faces the topical preacher much more often.
The topical sermon begins with an idea and then scriptures are found to back that idea up. The expository sermon begins with scripture and the idea is (hopefully) drawn from that.
But is this a Biblical notion? Who says that we should preach in this way?
Here’s one example of expository preaching in the Bible:
8They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read… 12Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them. (Nehemiah 8:8,12)
As a preacher, this is my goal: to make scripture plain so that God’s people can understand what they read in God’s word. And when God’s word is understood it will lead to conviction, it will lead to a changed life, and it will lead to celebration and great joy. Just like it did for God’s people in Nehemiah’s day.