This post will also be Episode 41 of my Podcast.
For the third part of this series, I am going to break from my This NOT That pattern. I contemplated a couple of titles for this post that might work, but in the end, I didn't really want to focus on what we don't do... but more on what we do do. In this particular case: Expository Preaching.
Expository preaching has been a key element of Edgewood since my arrival in 2009. In a previous blog post, titled Sermonic Timing, I elaborate on a bit of this. Specifically, that post is about how I have seen and continue to see God's miraculous timing as we encounter fitting topics in our journey through passages of scripture. If you haven't read or listed to that post, I would encourage you to do that right now, as I am attempting to avoid too much repetition.
A slight repetition from that post, but more of an elaboration, will be a definition of Expository Preaching. Without cheating and simply quoting a much smarter theologian, I would like to risk defining this myself. This definition will not meet scholarly accuracy in style, but it will be Expository Preaching as I understand it and as I have sought to practice it. To put it as simply as possible, Expository Preaching is to "preach the Word" as the Apostle Paul puts it in 2 Timothy 4:2. But I think I will need to be a little more specific than that, because I am convinced that there are many churches who would say that they "preach the Word" but they are not practicing Expository Preaching... and some aren't even really preaching the Word.
To state it a little more clearly, Expository Preaching is to Preach what the Word Preaches. To exposit something is to attempt to explain it fully and accurately. If one is to preach an expository sermon from the scriptures, one will attempt to say as clearly and as completely as possible what that original author intended. (And when I say "original author" I mean, not just the human who moved the pen but the Spirit who moved the human.) I am not and will not seek to find my own interpretation of a passage of scripture, but I will seek to determine the author's original intent with the words that are written. Consider Peter's words in 2 Peter 1:19–21 --
 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,  knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (ESV)
So Expositing is Explaining Clearly and Accurately and Completely. Preaching is a Proclaiming. It is not meant to be a positive talk. It is not simply a lesson that is taught, though there can be a significant overlap between preaching and teaching. It is more than an inspiring story, a practical application, a life lesson, an encouraging pep-talk, or a motivational speech. Expository Preaching is an attempt to take the inspired Word of God, have it (somehow) miraculously conveyed through a Man of God, by the very power of the Spirit of God, so that the assembled People of God will have their hearts spoken to by the -- very -- God.
How in the World?
That is quite a task. How in the world is someone to even begin to seek to accomplish this task? Let alone what is the hope that this task will be accomplished in any way in the multitude of churches that exist in this world? Ultimately we are to trust that our Great Savior, Jesus Christ, will keep his promises that he made to the Church when he ascended to the right hand of the Father. Specifically that he would "gift" the church with people called Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers. (See Ephesians 4:7-16.)
But I would like to answer this also with a bit more practicality. I will attempt to do this in two ways: One will be, "what can the pastor / preacher do?" the other will be, "what do the people do?"
What can the Pastor / Preacher do?
I believe that there are at least three things the Pastor can do.
First: Preach through the word. Don't cherry-pick passages or scriptures based on a topic. Instead, week by week continue through a passage of scripture. Exposit portions of it each and every week. This protects the preacher from veering off into their own opinions and ideas of what God's people need to hear. Instead, the preacher will simply begin preaching at the beginning of a text of scripture and work their way through that text. If there is ever a need, as the Spirit leads, for a particular topic to be addressed by the leadership of a church, find a passage of scripture that deals with that particular issue and preach what it says.
Second: Study. And by study, I mean study! Study the text. If you know the original languages, study the text in their original language. If you do not know the original languages, then find reliable technical commentaries that focus on those original languages. I always have at least two or three of the commentaries that I study from that are focused on the technical aspect of the text itself. The ones that are especially helpful are the ones that will also address the historical context of that writing, the original recipients, the author's use of vocabulary, other extra-biblical uses of the same vocabulary, and cultural elements that may play a role in understanding the text. After you are done studying, study some more. Study ahead to future texts (for the context) and study back to previously covered texts.
Third: Pray and Seek God. Preaching is ultimately a Spiritual endeavor. There are intellectual and scholarly elements involved, but at the end of the day, it is only by the working of the Holy Spirit of God that an accurate, accessible, understandable, relatable, applicable sermon will be presented. Pray over the text. Pray about the text. Pray that God will speak to you through the text, first and foremost, before he ever speaks to anyone else. A Pastor who regularly listens to God in His Word will be more likely to speak the Word of God to others.
What can the People do?
First. Pray for your Pastor. Pray before he starts speaking. Pray while he is speaking. Pray when you think he might be studying. Pray over the text that you believe he is studying. Pray that God will give him wisdom and insight into the Word. Pray that God will protect him from the evil one as he may be under attack while he is preparing. Pray that if your Pastor is not speaking by the Spirit, that God will Shut him up. And pray that if he is speaking by the Spirit, that none will be able to stop him.
Second. Study. Study the same passage that the Pastor is studying. Read it beforehand. Get your own commentaries and study the word. NOT for the purpose of refuting your Pastor, but for a mutual building up of your Pastor and yourself. (Unless, of course, your Pastor needs refuted. But then you may have to try a different approach. But even then the approach won't be to humiliate, intimidate, or aggravate... but to humbly confront in the name of Christ, by the Power of the Spirit, for the Glory of God.)
Finally. Listen. Just come ready to listen. If you have a pastor that is attempting to preach and expository sermon from the text of scripture, be ready to listen. Go to bed at a decent time the night before. Pray and prepare your heart on the way to the service. Try to eliminate distractions during the service (like your phone!). Demonstrate your listening by nodding your head, saying "amen" or "yeah", answer questions when the pastor asks them (if you have that sort of Pastor), take notes if that helps, and discuss what you heard with others after the service is over. (Especially with your Pastor, he loves that.)
There is so much more that could be said on this topic. But I will end this post by saying that if you are anywhere near Danville, IL, and you are looking for a church that has made expository preaching a key component of all that they do, then I would encourage you to visit us and hold us accountable to continuing this faithful dependence on the very words of God.