Thursday, June 1, 2017

"In-Depth Preaching Requires Full-Length Exposition."

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"True expository preaching always involves a lengthy, full treatment of the biblical text.  When Ezra stood before the people of Israel in Nehemiah 8, he read 'from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law" (Neh. 8:3b).'

The service went from sunrise to high noon, from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.  It was a six-hour period of time.  Obviously, this was a unique setting and situation.  Every sermon is not to be six hours long; But our delivery should be long enough to be deep.   Nehemiah did not cut it short; his treatment of the Word was lengthy.   This is not the scene we see at many churches in the U.S. a twenty minute sermon and a twenty-minute invitation.  This is not the spiritual fare at the average "seeker" church- one hour of syrupy choruses and a twenty minute pep talk from someone sitting on a stool.  No, this was a full treatment of the Word.  Ezra presented the Word without watering it down.

Careful Bible exposition requires considerable time in the pulpit.  It takes time for there to be introduction, transition, homiletical points, explanation, word studies, cross references, historical background, thematic context, authorial intent, application, illustration, exhortation, persuasion, and conclusion.  It always takes longer to get a 747 off the runway than it does a crop duster.  So it is with preaching.  An in-depth sermon requires a full-length exposition.

Early in my pastoral ministry, one of the matriarchs of the church I pastored said, "Pastor, your sermons are becoming too long."  I said, "Well ma'am, it all depends on the size of the cup you bring to church.  If you bring a little thimble, it will not take me long to fill it up.  May God enlarge your heart for the things of His kingdom."  Sometimes I am asked to speak in a seminary chapel, and the dean or president will say to me, "We want you to model exposition for the students.  You have twenty minutes to preach."  The fact is, I cannot model genuine exposition in a compressed period of time- not a true exposition of Scripture.

Again, this is not to say that every sermon should last several hours.  There are many variables that need to be taken into consideration concerning how long to preach.  Some of those factors are our own giftedness, where our congregation is spiritually, and the dynamics of the particular service you are preaching in.  But there needs to be a full disclosure of the Text, and such a weighty event cannot be short-circuited."

Dr, Steve Lawson (From Expositor magazine; Issue 8; Nov/Dec 15).

Post Script- The Lord has greatly blessed this shepherd-preacher with a gracious flock.  The congregation at First Baptist allows me to preach the Word without constant fear of going overtime.  During our recent Doctoral of Ministry class Dr. Joel Beeke shared a similar testimony about his congregation.  May hungry (1 Peter 2:2) congregations like this increase throughout our nation.

Article originally published in 2015