Preaching: Exposition or Entertainment?

How do you know if your pastor is committed to preaching the Bible? Would you know the difference if your pastor was expositing or entertaining? Are you a pastor or a Bible teacher (Sunday school, youth group, etc.)? Are you “tethered” to your Bible when you teach?

In most evangelical churches, you’d be hard pressed to find a man who, when asked, would come out and say, “No, I don’t preach the Bible, I just read a verse and then walk around and talk around what it means, never really getting into the text. “ Of course you wouldn’t. EVERYONE'S CHURCH preaches the Bible, so they say. And thankfully many do faithfully each Lord’s Day.

But many don’t. MANY don’t.

Pastor John Piper has once again done a simple, succinct and masterful job at helping us see the difference between a preacher who is “tethered” to his Bible as compared to one who is more oriented toward entertaining. Consider this comparison from a recent article Piper wrote:

The entertainment-oriented preacher gives the impression that he is not tethered to an authoritative book in what he says. What he says doesn’t seem to be shaped and constrained by an authority outside himself. He gives the impression that what he says has significance for reasons other than that it manifestly expresses the meaning and significance of the Bible. So he seems untethered to objective authority.

The entertainment-oriented preacher seems to be at ease talking about many things that are not drawn out of the Bible. In his message, he seems to enjoy more talking about other things than what the Bible teaches. His words seem to have a self-standing worth as interesting or fun. They are entertaining. But they don’t give the impression that this man stands as the representative of God before God’s people to deliver God’s message.

The Bible-oriented preacher, on the other hand, does see himself that way—“I am God’s representative sent to God’s people to deliver a message from God.” He knows that the only way a man can dare to assume such a position is with a trembling sense of unworthy servanthood under the authority of the Bible. He knows that the only way he can deliver God’s message to God’s people is by rooting it in and saturating it with God’s own revelation in the Bible.

The Bible-oriented preacher wants the congregation to know that his words, if they have any abiding worth, are in accord with God’s words. He wants this to be obvious to them. That is part of his humility and his authority. Therefore, he constantly tries to show the people that his ideas are coming from the Bible. He is hesitant to go too far toward points that are not demonstrable from the Bible.

Read it again, carefully. And if you are one who has the great responsibility and privilege of bringing God’s Word to a group of people each week, read it introspectively. Read the entire article called “In Honor of Tethered Preaching” and then ask yourself these kinds of questions:

1. Do I feel bound by the text of Scripture I’m teaching, desiring to go down into the text before I try to move out from the text?

2. Do I spend more time in exegesis (drawing God’s intent out the text) or isogesis (putting my own thoughts into the text)?

3. Do I spend more time Googling for a cool illustration or studying the origin of a Greek or Hebrew word?

4. Do I, in the words of Piper, demonstrate “a trembling sense of unworthy servanthood under the authority of the Bible?”

5. Or, am I more “at ease talking about many things that are not drawn out of the Bible?”

For you, the one in the pew… the listener…

1. Which kind of preaching do you enjoy more?

2. Do you find yourself talking during Sunday lunch about the pastor’s cute stories or the meaning and implication of the passage?

3. Do you find yourself talking about the sermon at all?

As one who teaches children and collegiates quite often, these are questions that I must ask myself each time I sit to prepare a message. And, perhaps these questions will help someone evaluate the soundness of their church. Perhaps you feel like your pastor or Sunday School teacher is more inclined to entertain the people rather than expound the passage. If this is the case, then there are right and wrong ways to address this. We’ll save that for another post, or you can email me with your questions.

As for now I’ll certainly be examining my own teaching ministry in light of Piper’s exhortations, but more importantly in light of the standard of God’s Word.

“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers,
for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”
James 3:1

1 comment:

Unknown said...

This really makes a person stop and think. I sent this on to my mother who teaches our Collegiates at church. They question everything. I love that about them. For myself..I often question how our pastor delivers the message because it seems that more often than not it is simply a continuation of the Sunday school lesson and not thought about at all.