Talk:Expository preaching

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📖 This user believes that expository preaching is desperately needed in today's church.

--One Salient Oversight 11:37, 9 May 2007 (UTC)

2004 Discussion[edit]

Is it necessary for "Expository" to always be capitalised? Unless this is a very common convention, or there's some other reason to justify it, it's kind of distracting. The article is nice, but needs a little NPOVing (mainly, just shifts in tone, not content). Revolver 01:05, 3 Feb 2004 (UTC)

As this article was originally written, it was:

  • weak on definition - by not listing the other recognised types of preaching, it failed to tell us what expository preaching is not (and therefore what it is).
  • heavily POV - implied that only preachers of a certain theology expound the bible - this is factually incorrect about current liturgical practice across most of the rest of the church, and ignores the huge shift towards lectionary preaching that the Revised Common Lectionary has brought about.
  • off the point - much of it is devoted to an argument about biblical sufficiency, which could be an article of its own, but is almost irrelevant to the issue of exposition vs other kinds of preaching.

I am gradually trying to put it in order, but it is slow work. seglea 08:25, 3 Feb 2004 (UTC)

I have written the article from a Reformed and Evangelical POV. This is one of my first major articles. Thank you for your input and changes.

I would like to argue for keeping in the points about Biblical Sufficiency since, from a Reformed perspective, they pretty much demand expository preaching - the idea being that it is actually a Biblical concept. I realise that this may become too "one sided" so it may be better to create a sub-article - "Expository preaching in Evangelical churches" for example. I'm happy for that that occur in order to preserve neutrality. Neilinoz

Unless there are other dimensions to biblical sufficiency that would warrant a separate article, I wouldn't be opposed to keeping those arguments here. But if we do, I think the article will need some structure so it's clear that this is not the main stream of the presentation, but an argument in favour of expository preaching that is persuasive in some traditions (but would carry less weight in others). Sorry if I was a bit dogmatic in my initial round of comments - I was rushing to get them done before packing in for the night. I do think the main thing is to be clear what other kinds of preaching there are (though maybe that needs a main article on preaching, which we haven't got), so as to put expository preaching into context.

Coming from a different tradition, I am mystified why biblical sufficiency should be thought to mandate expository rather than topical preaching (and in a sense all the other kinds of preaching I listed are varieties of topical praching). One consists of taking a bible passage and seeing what it speaks to us about, and the other consists of taking something we need to know about, and seeing what the bible says on the subject. As the article rightly says, the latter approach does expose us to the danger of just dipping in and stopping when we find something we like, but avoiding that is just a matter of a bit of adult discipline. But both expository and topical preaching can be done either from a literalist or a critical perspective, and both can be done from a position of biblical sufficiency or one that gives more equal weight to all four traditional pillars of religious understanding. We should probably try to sort that out here rather than through an edit war. The one thing I can say with some confidence is that your can't run a genuinely pastoral ministry without some topical preaching.

It's probably helpful to this discussion if we make clear where we are coming from: so let me say that I'm a UK Methodist local preacher (another article we badly need) of broadly liberal personal theology but preaching regularly in a range of congregations with varying emphases, who need widely different approaches. And that's another thing I can say with some confidence - it's not about the preacher, it's about the text and the congregation and how the two can be brought together.

I'll try to do some more work on it to-night.

seglea 18:05, 3 Feb 2004 (UTC)

Hello Seglea,

Being only new to Wikipedia and its format, yet sadly experienced in the ways of message boards, I can concur with your point about "Edit wars". Thankfully the NPOV mandate of Wikipedia means that all people, even those with strong viewpoints, are forced to write in a neutral and objective manner. I'm very happy for us to be working on this together.

I think your point about the usefulness and importance of topical preaching actually exposes a problem in my original article. I'm not against topical preaching at all, but coming from a Conservative, Reformed and Evangelical background does mean that I put greater weight and stress upon this style of preaching. Unfortunately it appears as though the tone of my original article implied that expository preaching is the only sort of preaching that should happen. If so then I'm happy for it to change.

More about myself. Originally I was an Anglican in Sydney (Australia). Check out my page on Sydney Anglicans for information about their beliefs and influences. Now that I have moved out of Sydney and into an Anglican diocese that is Anglo-Catholic, I have joined a Presbyterian Church. Both of these traditions are firmly Reformed and Evangelical in background. I'm a lay preacher and preach 1-2 times per month. I have been steadily working through 1 John since February 2001, hence my bias towards Exposition! -- [User:Neilinoz]]

I have had another go at this now. I have put in some headings to give the piece more structure, and I think this has provided a good way to conserve the material on the biblical warrant for expository preaching without distorting the argument. It has also led me to move things about a bit, though not with the intent of changing the argument. From my perspective it now feels reasonably NPOV (I threw out some of my own original edits as verging on the snide). Would you like to have a look at it and see if you are happy?
You'll notice that I have changed all your references to "he", "his" etc to "they" and "their", for the sake of gender neutrality. We may or may not like this, but it's just a modern necessity if we don't want our writing to sound quaint, fusty and POV; personally, however, I have to say that in this context I think it's right. It's partly simple politeness, but also I was trained myself as a preacher by a woman, I now have a woman as a trainee, and indeed I observe that the majority of people coming forward for training as preachers and clergy are women - I suspect that if we were going to use singular pronouns, the majority vote would be for "she" and "her". On the other hand I have left God as him... messing with that is one I can't easily digest. seglea 05:48, 5 Feb 2004 (UTC)

Neilinoz Responds[edit]

I've just had a look at your edit on this page. I'm not going to do my own edit until you've responded to the following comments.

1) The most usual basis for systematic expository preaching is a lectionary, which is a table of bible passages designed to expose the regular congregation to most parts of the bible over a reasonable period of time.

Is this really the case? I'm only going from my experience but it seems that many evangelical churches decide for themselves what parts of scripture they examine. Having attended an Anglo-Catholic church many years ago, I have been exposed to a Lectionary, but even then it just told you what passages to read from rather than what to preach on - in many cases the sermons I heard there were not based on those passages of scripture. Can you please explain this for me?

2) The great majority of Christians follow the conventional understanding that there are four bases for faith (the bible, the tradition of the church, the individual's religious experience, and human reason). However the emphasis put on each of these varies between denominations and congregations.

I take it this is the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. I think the first sentence seems to imply that the majority of Christians follow the four bases of faith in equal measure. I know that this is not the case, and I think you were trying to say that in your next sentence. The reason why I say this is because I don't agree that those who emphasize one basis of faith over another are somehow a "minority" or "Fundanmentalist" position - which is what the sentence could imply.

3) In churches who take the position that the Bible is God's inerrant word, and contains sufficient information for the Christian to understand their faith and how they should live their lives, exposition is likely to be relatively unsupported by material from outside the bible, though it often involves detailed comparison of one text with another in order to reach a synthesis.

There definitely is some form of outside support from Reason, Tradition and Experience - it's just that they act as secondary to the primary teaching of Scripture, and any use of them in an exposition will act to support, rather than contradict, what Scripture is saying.

4) The section ==The Expository Preacher== (which I wrote) appears to be separate from ==The Sciptural case for exposition==. The problem with this is that this particular section has derived its argument from the verses in the previous section. It is therefore more associated with those churches who view the Bible as dominant, rather than churches who hold other parts of the Quadrilateral. The problem with this is that readers may assume that the argument presented in that section may think it is applicable to all, when in fact it is really only applicable to the "Biblically Dominant". Phew! I'm finding it hard to write all this properly! All I'm saying Steve is that I wrote it from a "bible dominant" pov and it probably needs to be moved into the section you marked out for the "Biblically dominant."

Apart from these comments, I'm really happy so far with what you've done. Yes it is good to be gender neutral in the wording, thanks for that.

Here's some links to pique your interest in the Wes Quad: For John Wesley, the four sources were never considered to be of equal importance; scripture was always primary. Christians are contra mundum: against the world. We believe in a God with absolute moral standards while our cultures change their standards overnight. We believe in a God who has once for all revealed the truth about himself through his Son, the testimony to whom rests in an unchanging document; our cultures want to see God now and reject any pre-scientific “knowledge”.

Neilinoz 03:31, 6 Feb 2004 (UTC)

Hi everyone, including Seglea. This is Neilinoz (changed name to One Salient Oversight). I've rejugged the section on lectionaries vs their non-use because I do not think that the use of lectionaries is the "usual" method of expository preaching. In many protestant and evangelical churches the use of a lectionary has all but disappeared, and many preachers make the decisions themselves. As a result, rather than saying lectionaries are "usual" or that free exposition is "usual", all I've done is describe the two positions as ways in which expositions are done. One Salient Oversight 23:43, 13 May 2004 (UTC)

Infobox available[edit]

If you like Expostory preaching then copy and paste this infobox onto your userpage: {{User:UBX/Expository Preaching}}

--One Salient Oversight 03:50, 18 April 2007 (UTC)

Scriptural Backing and References[edit]

I don't think I need to go into too much of the scriptural backing and why it needs to be improved. One verse, Hebrews 4:12, and its explanation made me laugh because the explanation is worded in a way that is very topical and not expository. A church that is expository would most likely hold to the interpretation of that verse being a warning against falling into disobedience (the immediate context that the verse is surrounded by) and not the idea of that verse talking about the power Scripture has in general to the hearer (a common topical understanding).

In addition, why are there hardly any references? It looks like one proponent of expository teaching came and wrote the article based on what they thought and why they advocate this teaching style. Let's try to find some verifiable references out there. --Undadecor (talk) 20:47, 8 May 2009 (UTC)

2 Timothy 3:16[edit]

Commentators vary in interpreting this important verse of the Bible, and this article only reports one viewpoint. is the reference for the three following quotes.

Barnes states, "All Scripture - This properly refers to the Old Testament, and should not be applied to any part of the New Testament, unless it can be shown that that part was then written, and was included under the general name of 'the Scriptures;'..."

Clarke states, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God - This sentence is not well translated; the original...should be rendered: Every writing Divinely inspired is profitable for doctrine, etc."

Gill states, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,.... That is, all holy Scripture; for of that only the apostle is speaking; and he means the whole of it; not only the books of the Old Testament, but of the New...""

Another teaching is that the God-breathed (inspired) text is the original writing of the author; and would not, for example, include the King James translation.  RB (talk) 13:57, 15 November 2010 (UTC)

It should be noted that Peter refers to Paul's writings as scripture; thus the term cannot be confined to the OT. ( (talk) 21:14, 26 December 2010 (UTC))


I think it should be rewritten as one of the varieties of making a sermon. Various definitions should be presented. For example, the Northern Baptist method popularized by Perry as expository preaching is actually a hybrid of topical and expository. A more comprehensive list of claimed advantages and disadvantages can be done with citation for those who have listed advantages and disadvantages. Perhaps the title should be changed to Christian Expository Preaching. Such an article could be helpful to a young preacher who wants to know the different ways to construct a sermon and wants to decide which method to major on in his ministry.

The different techniques for making sermons are striking. There is the "pet peeve" method, namely to conduct a series of lamentations & scoldings for those who don't attend all the sermons (& aren't even there to hear the scolding). Then there is the constant rant on tithing since the preacher is focused on meeting the budget of the church (which may be way behind). The preacher knows that the problem of money will be solved if all will just tithe, even tho the Church was never told to tithe in the Bible! One notable preacher seems to read a verse and then go off on a topic, spouting many certitudes without any Bible proof for them. Then there is the John Hagee method of preaching, whereby a sermon is regarded as a great task requiring many man hours of preparation with extensive visual aids (I don't refer to his content, just his method of making a sermon -- lazy preachers should take note). Vernon McGee went through the Bible in 5 years and seemed to make a balance between explaining the text and making practical applications.

The importance of using parables and illustrations should not be left out of the method of preparing sermons. The study to show thyself approved should not be left out either. However, these matters don't just relate to one method of preaching. The fact is that there are a ton of sorry, lazy preachers, who bore the congregation every Sunday. Their time ranting may way exceed their preparation. (EnochBethany (talk) 21:37, 26 December 2010 (UTC))

Expository vs. Topical[edit]

I am not happy with the article's segregation of "expository" preaching as compared to "topical". The statement early on seems to assert that the two are in opposition to one another ("Expository preaching differs from topical preaching in that the former concentrates on a specific text and discusses topics covered therein, whereas the latter concentrates on a specific topic and references texts covering the topic.") and then later when well-known expository preachers are mentioned, it suggests that the lines are unclear ("Many famous evangelical preachers have used systematic exposition, though the line between exposition, topical message, and rabbit paths is not sharply defined."). Given the initial assertion and the focus early on in the article, a reader could easily walk away understanding that expository preaching is PRIMARILY about preaching from a lectionary and never addresses a topic.

Expository preaching generally follows an approach in which the Bible passage is selected prior to the determination of the sermon's focus (or, said differently, the focus of the sermon IS the selected Bible passage). However, the selection METHOD is not a key determinant of expository preaching. I highlight this here because there does appear to be some use of the term to mean "preaching through a lectionary" or "preaching through a book of the Bible" -- but this usage ought to be regarded as non-standard. Similarly, the term "topical sermon" is variously used to mean "beginning with a topic and finding Bible passages that address it" and "preaching about a topic". Regardless of how the term "topical" is used, an expository sermon can be topical, and conversely a topical sermon can be expository.

For instance, the TOPIC of Christ's birth can be selected and a logical corresponding passage in Luke could become the basis for an expository sermon. Similarly, the topic of government authority could be selected and the well-known passage in Romans 13 could be the basis for an expository sermon. In these cases, the TOPIC is fairly generic and inert -- which is to say that it is only a topic, not a complete thought. Thus, in the latter example, by approaching the topic of government authority, the preacher is confident that the passage has SOMETHING to say on the matter, but he is then submitting himself (and eventually the congregation) to what the text communicates about it. This is in direct opposition to a preacher who sets out to preach on the topic of "Why it is sinful to go against governmental authority" and then uses Romans 13 to prove his (emphasis on "his", not necessarily the passage's) thesis. Expository preaching includes a submission to the text (pericope) to determine what it reveals. Thus, an expository approach can be used to determine what scripture reveals "on a topic".

Even if multiple passages are combined, the sermon can still be somewhat expository.

Clearly, as descriptors of preaching, topical and expository can overlap. Note, by the way, that if expository preaching is defined primarily about progressing through a lectionary and/or a book of the Bible, then a sermon can also be both topical and expository at the same time. Using the example above, a preacher might see that he is scheduled to preach on Romans 13, reads it through quickly and/or recalls that this is about government authority, and then proceeds to write a topical sermon, leveraging the selected text only as a springboard for his own views (even if nice, common theological / "Biblical" views). In this case, the sermon meets the basic definition (selected from a lectionary) but is certainly not expository by a reasonable definition since the approach does not primarily seek to expose / reveal what the passage of scripture says.

I say all of this with the healthy acknowledgement that GENERALLY topical and expository are at odds. Generally a preacher will either begin with a topic or begin with a passage. Once the sermon preparation has commenced, it will be expository if it seeks to: 1) explore the meaning of the passage, 2) reveal a key message from the author, and 3) consider an application to the hearer.

This view of expository preaching was summarized better by Haddon W. Robinson: · The passage governs the sermon · The expositor communicates a concept · The concept comes from the text · The concept is applied to the expositor · The concept is applied to the hearers (Notice how Robinson's summary can be contrasted with topical preaching in which the topic governs the sermon and the concept comes from the topic.)

I welcome feedback before I offer edits. — Preceding unsigned comment added by ImagoDeiAmI (talkcontribs) 22:17, 18 October 2011 (UTC)

Rabbit Paths?[edit]

The section entitled "Prominent Expository Preachers" says "the line between exposition, topical message, and rabbit paths is not sharply defined." What are "rabbit paths?" If this is a colloquial term some expository preachers use, it should be clarified. I've never heard the term. (talk) 09:16, 22 May 2013 (UTC)

Good point. I guess the sentence is just saying there that some of the classifications might be debatable. Anyway, I have removed the sentence - it was vague, and it didn't really add anything to the article. StAnselm (talk) 09:36, 22 May 2013 (UTC)


I'd just like to point out that if you take the arguments made by advocates of expository preaching to their logical conclusion, it becomes unclear why it is even necessary to "expound" on a text. How can you "throw light on" something that is already Light itself? Especially because many pastors consciously or unconsciously read their own biases into the text (like Calvinism, for example). If you REALLY want to let the Scriptures speak for themselves plainly, just read them as-is, like a liturgical text; or better yet, have the entire congregation read them in unison. That's what the Eastern Orthodox churches do, for instance. Of course that's not technically preaching, but it is a third option; expository vs. topical is kind of a false dichotomy. It does seem like a lot of expository preachers do the very things they accuse other methods of doing. FiredanceThroughTheNight (talk) 12:25, 27 October 2013 (UTC)