The following post was written by Ed Newton, Bible Communicator and Executive Director of the Lift Tour. Read more about Ed here.
I make the case that we have grossly under challenged students in our ministries by simply assuming that our students cannot handle the deep doctrines of the faith or a hearty diet of God’s Word. Reality is that when these students leave our worship services they are going home to do homework in the areas of Calculus, AP Biology, Chemistry, and American Literature. Therefore, to simply offer only topical discussions with verses not taught in context continues to foster the biblical illiteracy of this generation. There is a deep longing within the heart of your students for the Truth of Scripture and how it applies to their life. Therefore, don’t approach your pulpit ministry with the attempt to make Scripture relevant; understand that the Bible is always relevant. It has been said: Trying to make the Bible relevant is like trying to convince others that water is wet. Many approach the pulpit with the ambition to make the Bible come alive, when the Bible is already alive. Therefore, my hope for every reader is an undeniable conviction to preach and teach the Scripture in light of the theological threads that permeate Genesis through Revelation.
To investigate the Scriptural text is to look beyond the black ink on a page and see the literary, historical, and theological contexts of the passage. I have called this pursuit of the original meaning of the selected scriptural text as “going C.S.I.” (Crime Scene Investigators) on the Bible. This is to put each word, sentence, and paragraph under the microscope of observation and determine how it fits within the narrative of the entirety of the Bible and the people in the original audience. The question, “What does this passage of Scripture mean to me?” is not a bad question; it just can’t be the first question in sermon preparation.
“Passion with content” is to be the mantra of every message. To simply preach expository sermons based upon sound exegetical research with no passion is unfortunate. I was once told – “If you’re going to bore anyone with subject matter, just make sure it is not the Bible.” The reason that most people feel as if the Bible is irrelevant and boring is because it is often communicated that way. The key to expository preaching is to stay within the confines of the text, make practical application, and present it with passion and zeal. Never feel the pressure to carry the weight of entertaining your audience with your personality or illustrations; they simply serve as the “seasoning” to the “meat of the Word”. Never get it backwards, which means your illustrations become the “meat” of the message and the Scripture becomes the “seasoning” sprinkled over your stories. This model will be short-lived, because eventually you will run out of cool stories.
The precedent was set in Genesis 2:7 when God breathed into Adam one “Holy breath” causing him to be awakened to the God factor of a personal relationship with his Creator. This same “Holy breath” was breathed out on the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16) causing the very same initial outcome of Adam upon humanity. Therefore, Romans 10:17 is true, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. The very breath of God that awakened Adam to a relationship with God is the very breath of God upon the Scriptures that allows depraved humanity to be made alive in Christ. Then, the question must be asked: “Why would any preacher desire to spend the majority of the time in the pulpit on anything else but unleashing the Word of God upon his hearers?”
In practical application, consider this principle: As a husband to my wife, I am called to be an Ephesians 5 husband, which is “to love my wife as Christ loved the church.” However, many stop right there at Ephesians 5:25, but what does the next verse say? As a husband I am called to “wash her in the Word”, which in essence is to do all you can to promote sanctification, consecration, and edification in her life towards Jesus. Now, here is where I flip the script on you in expository preaching. If my role as a husband is to wash my bride in the Word, then shouldn’t this be the very role of every New Testament preacher? This is to spend your time in the pulpit washing the Bride of Jesus Christ in the Word for the purpose of sanctification, consecration, and edification towards life change. Therefore, if the Holy Spirit’s role is to illuminate the Word for understanding, thus magnifying Jesus, then the sole mission of preaching is to unleash the infallible word of God upon its hearers for God’s purposes to be fulfilled. Why? Because it doesn’t return void. This entry serves as a “call to all who are called” to not bring your creativity to the Scripture thus causing the attention of your audience to be placed upon your giftedness. Instead, allow your creativity to be derived from the Scripture, causing all to behold the creativity of their Creator.
So, embrace the invitation on your life and live out Malachi 2:7: “True instruction was in his mouth and no wrong was found on his lips, He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity.”
Remember you never fail when tethered to the Word in preaching!