I just listened to two sermons on a CD that were given to one of my family members. I must confess I did not have high hopes that the sermons would be accurate and therefore edifying; unfortunately I was correct. That’s not to say that there were no pellets of truth to be found; the gist of the sermons was true, but there was also personal opinion coupled with those pellets of truth. There was a plethora of heart wrenching stories which typically cause people to become tearful, sad, regretful, inspired, or even happy and encouraged, and say things like, “what a great preacher!” That sounds well and good, but you can experience those same emotions at a Barbara Streisand concert, rodeo, or Chinese buffet!
I’m sure there will be some that read this and say, “ok, what’s the problem?! Isn’t preaching supposed to produce those emotions? Aren’t we to be moved by the sermon?” My answer is a resounding YES! While preaching the Bible in one sense produces very reasonable, sensible, and rational results, it also produces emotion. So, sermons which cause us to emote are not necessarily wrong. The problem with story/illustration filled sermons which produce emotions is that they are story/illustration filled sermons which produce emotions and nothing more! Again, you can leave a Barbara Streisand concert, rodeo, or Chinese buffet with the same emotional high, only to be woefully dejected days, hours, or even minutes later!
Why is Oprah so popular? I think it’s because she stimulates emotions in her audience by sharing stories, situations, and life events that pull on their heart strings! She gets many in her audience stirred up and sends them on their way, singing the praises of their guru of life. But is it real? Ask Robyn Okrant who practiced Oprah’s advice for an entire year,
It wasn’t easy. Okrant says she was “broken down, my tank empty” by October 2008 and thrilled when it was all over (USA Today).
In spite of the rousing, emotion filled episodes; all it accomplished was to leave her with negative emotions and a slightly better structured life. That’s the same thing opinion, story, and illustration driven sermons, do! There is no real substance which changes our lives or brings glory to God.
So, what is the purpose in preaching? John Piper calls it “Expository exultation,” displaying God’s glory for the good of His people. That’s it!! That’s what preaching is! Preaching is NOT a device to attract a gathering of people so the gatherer of people (The pastor) can be exalted as the greatest gatherer of people! The purpose of preaching is to exalt the Creator by making Him known; as a result we are benefited beyond measure. We exult in the exaltation of God through the exposition of His Word! Nehemiah 8: 5-8 tells what exposition is,
And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. 6 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 7 Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. 8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. (ESV)
They “helped the people to understand the Law…” That’s a preacher’s purpose! We should help the people understand what God has said, who God is, what He has done, etc. That’s the “exposition” part. Verse 12 speaks of the exultation part,
And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them
The “people went their way…rejoicing, because they had understood…” God was exalted because the people were exulting in the exposition of God’s Word! That’s the circle of life in preaching!
So…preachers/teachers…Preach the Word!! That’s your assignment! Nothing more, nothing less!! Your people are depending on you to tell them what God says!! Your people need to hear God speak and that happens through the exposition of the Word of God! Do your homework, find out what the passage means, pray, and PREACH! If it means less meetings, visiting, whatever…your job is to proclaim “Thus says the Lord”!
Church members…DEMAND the Word of God! Not stories, touchy feely illustrations, or man-centered opinions. You NEED the Word of God! You NEED to know what God says, NOT what I think or any man thinks. If you can’t get it at the church you attend, go somewhere else…it’s that important! Don’t attend church because they have the greatest praise band or best nursery, attend because you hear what God says through the preaching of the Word!
Don’t get me wrong, I certainly am no master expositor; not even close! But I do know that nothing takes precedent over the preaching of God’s Word.
EXPOSITION, EXALTATION, EXULTATION!