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What Happened to Expository Preaching? (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
October 11, 2022 4:00 am

What Happened to Expository Preaching? (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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October 11, 2022 4:00 am

It’s possible to eat a lot yet remain malnourished, because not all food is nutritious. It’s similarly possible to be spiritually starved even if you attend church regularly. What’s missing? Find out when you listen to Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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R.C. Sproul

It's possible to eat a lot of them still remain poorly nourished. Not all food is nutritious today on Truth for Life will hear a similar illustration that explains how it's also possible to be spiritually malnourished. Even if you attend church regularly. Alastair Begg asked the important question what happened to expository preaching. I was born to some of the realized in Scotland and I have vivid recollections of church in Scotland Sundays in Scotland are very different from the average Sunday in America. If you had a parakeet it was not allowed to swing on his barge on a Sunday because it would be enjoying himself, and that would definitely not be allowed although we attended a large city center mission hall I was taking frequent major Presbyterian Church in the center of the city codes and George's strong routine there on a Sunday morning. If you've ever attended is now at least, it was the last time I was there as it always was a way back 40 years ago and that is that in about five or 10:54 before the commencement of the morning service the beetle and the beetle not the beetle by the beetle BEA DLE look up the skull and the parish official. I would appear from the doorway underneath the poop.

It at carrying a large Bible.

He would then ascend the stairs and lay the Bible down on the pulpit would open the Bible and dig these gigantic ribbons and put them in the place for the day. You then pause for a moment descend the stairs and disappear.

He would then return about a minute later, this time in front of the minister. He would then step aside, the minister would make his way slowly up the pulpit stairs would be seated.

The beetle would follow up the stairs with essentially lock him in the pulpit, closing the door and turning the handle on to make sure that he didn't get out as a small boy. It was always in the immediately obvious to me that whatever was about to happen in the subsequent proceedings and definitely have something to do with a large book that it is been laid out there and while the man appeared to be standing over the book.

In reality he was standing underneath it that he was underneath Scripture, not so much over Scripture that he was about to do what Jim Packer talks about doing, namely letting texts talk he was going to preach the Bible by preaching the Bible James W Alexander writing about Scottish Presbyterians in an earlier era set among the Scottish Presbyterians. Every man and woman may almost every child carried his pocket Bible to church and not only looked out at the text but verified each citation and is the preaching was in great part of the expository kind the necessary consequence was that the whole population became intimately acquainted with the structure of every book in the Bible and were able to recall every passage, with its appropriate accompanying truths out. Obviously, any decline or absence of expository preaching is going to bring undeniable and undesirable results. How then can they call on the one they have not believed and says Paul and how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard and how can they hear without someone preaching to them and how can they preach unless they are sent. As it is written, how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news about 50 years ago, actually more than that now.

Sangster, the great Methodist preacher in Britain began a volume on preaching with these words. Preaching is in the shadows. The world does not believe in it. Today the situation is graver still preaching is still in the shadows, but this time much of the church does not believe in, and I want to suggest is a fundamental issue that is presented to us that much of what now emanates from contemporary pulpits would not of been recognized either by Alexander or Baxter or Sangster as being anywhere close to the kind of expository Bible teaching which is exactly that, Bible-based Christ focused and life changing that much that emanates from contemporary pulpits is not marked by doctrinal clarity or by a sense of gravity or by convincing argument obviously inherent in what I'm saying is the conviction that true preaching must be marked by doctrinal clarity, a sense of gravity and convincing argument. We become very familiar with preaching that pays scant attention to the Bible is self focused and is consequently only capable of making the most superficial impact upon the lives of the listeners. This would be bad enough, were it not for the fact that large sections of the church who listen to this kind of stuff are actually oblivious to the fact that what they're getting is a placebo rather than the real Madsen and therefore they leave satisfied with the feeling that it is done them some good feeling which disguises the gravity of the situation some years ago.

I enjoy the privilege of preaching at a place that some of you will of garnets and Enders Episcopal Church and in Nathan Rd. in Hong Kong to the evangelical Anglican church in the hold meetings. They are under the auspices of the Keswick convention. They had a pool but but they never used it and the organizers were concerned that the that the preachers would not be standing 6 feet above contradiction, and so they provided a little lecture like this to hold the preachers Bible as he spoke I was sharing the event with a kindly man that I had never met prior to the convention and both of us spoke each morning. Some mornings I would preach first and some mornings he would preach first.

Whenever he began a message he would come up in the very first thing that he did what he would come up and even take the pulpit as it was the lectern and he would put her over on the side and then he would stand by and then he would begin to talk. He wanted the listeners to relax. I think that's nice and benefit from his conversational style and I think his motivation was absolutely wonderful. Well, when it came my turn to preach if I pre-second that I go over. I get up I get the thing.

I stand up now Alastair back and I come over and give a think I put her over like that we come back in evening if my thing is still there. Mr. zone service that many other things may put tobacco like that. And so it went on for five days every time he stood up he moved it every time I stood up I put it back before the week was out two incidents occurred that I don't think necessarily work related forcible. I explained to the congregation that the reason I replace the lectern. Each time was not simply that I might have a place for my Bible, but because I did not want to forgo the symbolism of having a central poop it with the word in his deserve primary place I wanted the Bible to be absolutely central to everything that was going on and there was a symbolism in this thing, whatever it was, I don't care who was a cardboard box but it was in the middle and purposefully so. After all, I pointed out if the preacher were to fall down or disappear, the congregation would still be left with its focus in the right place, namely on the Scriptures. Now the reason I said this was because I know that my colleague did not take it as a personal rebuke. He and I I admire the man and died. I don't even want now to impinge in a negative way on what he was doing a tall, it just was a difference in style, but that's what made the second incident all the more telling.

For me a day or two later, he confided in me. We were eating in the YMCA and he asked if he could eat with me because he wanted to talk with me and this is what he said I've lost any real sense of passion or power in teaching the Bible and I sat as a young man probably 25 years his junior and listened as he poured out his heart with tears reflecting upon his diminished zeal not it is obviously far too simplistic to suggest that his removal of the podium. Each time he spoke was a symbol of a faltering conviction with regard to the priority and power of the Scriptures, but at the same time. I have a sneaking suspicion that his removal was actually simply more than a matter of style or preference were not appear to give talks. We have no reason for existence, except that the Bible is a living book sharper than a two edge sword and that we don't have to defendant it can take care of itself.

We simply have to lay it out for the people.

It is imperative.

I think that we know what we acknowledge and remember and help each other to acknowledge and remember that when we gather together his companies of God's people. It is not to enjoy preaching eloquence or to criticize the lack thereof but is to hear and to heed the word of God, we come to be exhorted not to be entertained and if churches are the pastors begin to think of the place from which messages are delivered to our congregation is a stage it is almost inevitable that caricatures of the preacher will a marriage, and sadly I would suggest to that is precisely what is taken place and that in our day. The expositor of Scripture has been equipped by a variety of said substitutions may suggest one or two for you. Number one the cheerleader is having a preacher, you have the cheerleader he comes and he's a well-meaning fellow.

He is a peculiar need to be liked and accepted and whatever the context of his particular message. He is always going to be positively inspirational. A good Sunday for the cheerleader is one where his people laugh a lot are affirmed and affirming and they go away more self-assured than when they arrived whether they were confronted by the truth of God's word or humbled by God's presence is largely lost sight of in a quest for wholeness that replaces a concern about holiness. The cheerleader who is concerned that his people would get to know the Bible often leaves the teaching of the Bible to small groups or to hold Bible studies, he simply feels that his task is to coach pump them up and to prepare them for the daunting week that awaits them as soon as they leave the building.

So consequently you find the sheep leaving the building stirred without being strengthened and when the sugar fix that is being provided by the milkshake sermon is worn off those with any kind of spiritual appetite find themselves in search of more substantial food for their souls because the proper work of the preacher has not been done. Secondly, the conjurer, when we hear the congregation declaring was that amazing what he got out of that we should not immediately assume that the news is good for the little I know about magic, I'm forced to conclude that the rabbit was in there before he pulled it out of there and the reason I got in there is because he put it in there so that he could pull it out. There are some tremendous sermons where the reason he got it out is because he had previously put it in. Unfortunately, it was the spirit of God, to put it in. It was himself, and having put it in. He felt duty bound to pull it out and consequently the country as it was an amazing what he got out of that whenever the preacher refuses to do the hard work of discovering what the text actually means in its context when he divorces discovery and application just about anything can be conveyed from the Bible and very often this and again you see this would be a bad thing. If the congregations understood it, but many congregations have been brought up on this and so they had no idea. It's all that they're not actually sitting under a biblical ministry, if any, because the Bible is referred to, or there is a scanned reference to the Bible every so often in between the anecdotes that actually was taking place is that they are receiving biblical instruction. The man may be a conjurer. RW Dale refers to this in his lectures on preaching given to the faculty and students of Yale in 1876. Amazing thought is that I was think of the tricks of those ingenious gentlemen who entertain the public by rubbing a sovereign between their hands until he becomes a canary and drawing out of their coat sleeves have a dozen brilliant glass globes filled with water and with fortified goldfish swimming in each of them for myself. I like to listen to a good preacher and I have no objection in the world to be amused by the tricks of a clever conjurer but I prefer to keep the conjuring and the preaching separate conjuring on Sunday morning, conjuring in church, conjuring with texts of Scripture is not quite to my taste and see if a man does not have a solid conviction that the word of God is powerful in and of itself is only forced to do something with it to try and overcome the consumer resistance which he feels is his task because he is a product is the Bible. He is a consumer is the individual and his and his ability is generally seen in here in the way in which he can make the sale. Thirdly, the storyteller, I just dealing with these arbitrarily the storyteller. This man has convinced themselves that since everyone loves a good story and since people tend to be less inclined to follow the exposition of the Bible you just develop his gift for storytelling to the neglect of the hard work of biblical exposition clearly stories were part of the teaching of Jesus's parables. As we all learned in Sunday school where Ashley stories with heavenly meaning, but the fact that Jesus used earthly stories with heavenly meaning does not grant the contemporary preacher the license to tell stories, devoid of heavenly meaning that are of no earthly use. Note this happens to us all some months ago.

Now I was preaching about something in the Bible about not being critical of one another or something like that or not poking your nose into other people's affairs and in the course of my preaching. Suddenly the picture came to mind of a monkey and of what monkeys do you know, and that the monkeys pick each other and is a distasteful thing whether there there always poking around it and then when we find one of these things somewhere on the think in the end they pull it out and then they show it to the person that they printed out from the city shortly. Look what I found in you. You know and and you when you see this on Camry civil will the think what is it he's doing. Picking that they view that they could see what it looks like from the angle applicant had been picking at his company's incentive is what monkeys do while I was there. I don't know if it was a week or two weeks, but I was passing the tape table and I could hear 70 trying to order tape and the person was saying we want the monkey sermon were looking for the monkey sermon so you're telling yourself trying to teach the Bible you know and and CG the Scriptures and basically think the monkey sermon. You know I'm telling that against myself because I because we understand that in illustration we do these things and will say more about that later invite Martyn Lloyd Jones.

If you read his preaching and preachers, which is of course a standard responsibility for any of us published in 1971 by Zondervan, which is staggering.

Now is it I was 19 when it was published.

I read it. That year I got there it was wonderful then and I still think it's fantastic in that volume, though he charges Scottish preachers with a similar distortion of what preaching should be. He says they have a propensity for literary flourish and expression at the expense of biblical content and substance. He goes on, these men were endowed with a real literary gift and the emphasis passed unconsciously from the truth of the message to the literary expression. They paid great attention to literary and historical allusions and quotations.

They were essayists rather than preachers and to the extent that I may be in endemic Scottish flaw. Those of you.

His name ends with MAC should pay particular attention to the rest of us can proceed as normal. I don't want to drive you nuts with this but what about the entertainer entertainer instead of the preacher.

He decides he's become an entertainer.

Too often these days, you're invited to preach somewhere no thought is given to the preacher being part of the worshiping strong is that the usher you into the greenroom as they call it there. You're invited to relax quotes backstage until it's time for you to coach do your thing." I don't want to impugn the motives of those who function in this fashion but I do question the rightness of the procedure because it tends to foster an approach in the mind of the preacher which makes him something of a performer rather than a pastor makes him something of star rather than a worshiper, and I think it fosters an environment in which the people come to sit back and relax and to assess the performance rather than to have a heart attitude of the hymn writer coming in saying masters speak thy servant here waiting for thy gracious words speak to me by enamel master. Let me know it is to me there's all the difference in the world between a congregation that is been schooled to think in those terms of God.

We are now coming to an event in which you have deigned to speak through your work. Now I ask you to speak to me. I know that it's Bill of Rights Fred or George or whatever it is I know a lot about them. I know the good and the bad the ugly about them, but I knew know this that you are sovereign God and that you can use Balin's donkey and therefore you can use this poor soul is out there this morning.

So do it Lord to your glory and my benefit. There's all the difference in the world. Between that and the person sitting rising while I see how well he does.

You know that's a given margin of 10 for landmarks absent for humor marks out of 10 for for whatever else it is an soon as Amanda gives a think in those terms, he'll play to his audience to become an entertainer in between 75 and 77 when I was the assistant minister, Charlotte Chapel. I tell my colleagues this. They think I'm making it up. I'm sure will in in the in the vestry before you went out into the pool. It was I don't know what it was like but it was solemn and the man who was the church secretary would add precise moment.

Ask the pastor and his assistant name and myself to stand. He would then reach over and he would take a close brush and he would brush the backs of our jackets down our jackets down our legs that he would have us stand and he would look at us needs a fine. You then hang the brush back up.

He would then go over to the doorway that opened into the congregation.

There's a little peel all in it and as you raise the then move the chelators he was looking across the large clock, which results in the pool but strategically placed by member in the corner usually resolves in the pulpit and he would look across the that and and and he wasn't trying to get it right within the yard.

Five minutes then approximately 20 seconds to go before 11 o'clock was the morning, 26, 2046 there's immunity here then stand back and say aha and you just open the door.

Derek prime would go in first. He would walk in. First, he would stand the sight he would let me. Among the stairs first and they would follow me up and then we would sit down together and then we would pause in a moment of prayer.

Ask a bunch of formalism but very different from the kind of go get them camaraderie stuff that pervades the last three minutes before many of us going to the pool.

Go for the government, you know. So what is this a ballgame or something to realize was about to take place when Jupiter when there we mean go for it. You understand will go for it means mean we have to train our people to get under the burden of this thing for us. This is not going anywhere to tell stories without any or to entertain any of you who conjuring tricks to go in there and trying to keep the congregation through another Sunday and see we can do something to bring them back the next Sunday we are going in there to see behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world that we better Jack is brushed and we better have our shoes clean. We better be ready for the moment that it comes the systematize or I've only got 2 to 3 more the systematize or refill you to the preacher reviews the text of Scripture merely as the backdrop for a doctrinal lecture who simply want to take the Bible and use it to explain something that he just read in a fat book somewhere that really give them a jazz which is not a legitimate atoll but is not expository preaching. This is very different from the individual who in the course of exegete in a passage draws out the elements of Christian doctrine right is all the difference in the world between executing a president and then explicating the Christian doctrine that unfolds from that not talk about Land Rover, the person is going to be in his bonnet about some part of Christian doctrine and he's going to come and find a verse and and and do that with out when we hear this kind of preaching we don't doubt his truthfulness, but we do wonder the absence of passion and while we recognize and will see this again. That one's theological framework obviously affects our view of the Bible.

We need to work very hard to make sure that the Scripture rules our framework and not the other way around.

The place where we find real spiritual nourishment using Bible-based Christ focused life changing preaching listing to Truth for Life. That's Alistair Begg exhorting pastors to focus on preaching rather than performing. If you're a pastor. We want to recommend to you an assortment of books series of articles to help you with Christ centered preaching with the challenges of church leadership and your personal devotional life is Truth for to browse recommended books were studies, articles specifically prepared for you as you serve in ministry and if you'd like to support your pastor or your church elders during pastor appreciation month. All of the books and audio studies found the Truth for make great gifts. Your pastor will appreciate the encouragement you like to show appreciation to the wives of your church leaders as well. We will recommend to you a book titled partners in the gospel. This is a devotional written by author and pastor's wife, Megan Hill. This is the last week were offering partners in the gospel so be sure to request the book when you give a donation Truth for the way, it's not too early to start thinking about a summer vacation next summer and booked your cabin on the deeper faith 2023 Mediterranean cruise.

Alister will be the guest speaker on the cruise starts in Rome, Italy. It stopped in a different port each day, including multiple Greece, Croatia and Slovenia. Visit deeper faith for more information about Lapine. Why is that so many contemporary pastors have veered away from expository preaching.

Alister looks at the answer tomorrow. Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life Learning is for Living

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