It’s interesting how expository preaching can help set a church’s agenda.
“I don’t want to preach that, Lord.”
I’ve found myself saying those words a handful of times as I’ve looked at the text to preach for that particular week.
I’m not speaking of that wrestling match that preachers talk about when they are trying to say that this “word they got from the Lord” isn’t their opinion but it came straight from the mouth of God. That’s a handy way to manipulate, remove yourself from any critique, and get what you want whilst blaming Jesus. I’m not talking about that type of “I don’t want to preach this”.
The type of wrestling to which I’m referring happens when you are dedicated to expository verse by verse preaching and the text for that week is one you’d rather not preach. This has happened to me a few times when the text hit a little too close to home, or I knew it would be potentially controversial. I’d rather preach something different. But I don’t.
Why do I do this?
Expository Preaching Lets the Spirit of God Set the Agenda
I believe it is absolutely vital that the Spirit of God direct the church. I want the Lord to set the agenda and not myself or anyone else. I believe going through books at a time will do this. No matter how much I think I know a text and what I’ll be preaching on for the next few months, I’m always surprised. Furthermore, I am not omniscient. I don’t know what particular issues our church will be facing in the next 3-6 months. But God does. And when we pick a book of Scripture we’re ensuring that God’s Word is setting the agenda and not our calendars, our concerns, and our pet projects.
And frankly, I don’t trust myself enough to not mix my passion with the Spirit. Or to confuse my lack of passion for a “no” from the Spirit. There are some issues that I would never bring up. I’d keep saying, “let’s wait”. I’d make excuses about the church not being ready or some other holy sounding reason for cowardice. I’ve been doing this long enough that I know how to make fear of man sound like fear of the Lord. Some idols I’d perhaps never confront.
And there are some things I would want to preach about every couple weeks. I’d be like the cook who gets stuck in a rut and prepares about the same five or six meals on rotation. That’s convenient. You can say that you’re “inspired” to make pork chops again but the truth is you’re limited in your options because you’ve never challenged yourself to branch out.
Faithful verse-by-verse expository preaching helps to ensure the Spirit is setting the agenda. And it’s amazing to sit back and watch when God is doing the same thing in Sunday school classes, our calendars, and the concerns on the hearts of our church. You can’t manipulate that stuff into happening. It’s wildly encouraging, but it can at times be a bit difficult when his word for a particular season isn’t rainbows and unicorns and cupcakes but a confrontation with our idolatries. I’m not sure I’d be brave enough on my own to bring us to those precipices. But I’m dedicated to preaching the Word. That’s my thumbs up from God.
So, with knees knocking, I stand behind the pulpit and on occasion preach a message that I really don’t want to preach.
This article about expository preaching originally appeared here.