Is Topical Or Expository Preaching Better?

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Is There a Better Method of Preaching?

I have been in ministry now since 1988 and although that does not make me an expert on preaching, I have preached more sermons than I personally ever needed to preach.

Many times people have either asked me or tried to prove to me that one form of preaching was superior to another form.

In fact, some denominations go so far as to require that their pastors use one form of preaching on Sunday morning.

Personally, I find this a little silly because both types of preaching, whether it be topical or expository preaching have their strengths and weaknesses and to try to make a pastor fit into a certain mold violates the principle that God creates us unique.

Now before I start dealing with this subject, I want everyone to understand that I am coming from the perspective that I laid out in my article called Sermons That Work.

In that article, I make the assertion that the person giving the sermon needs to allow God to work in them what it is He wants to say or do before He can work through them in giving the sermon.

What Is Topical and Expository Preaching?

Topical preaching is where the person giving the sermon picks a topic to preach on and then searches the scriptures to find biblical examples or references that apply to the topic.

This method of preaching has been around for years but recently has been diluted of its effectiveness by those that would use it to prove their philosophies rather than to teach the full counsel of the word of God.

This is especially true of seeker-sensitive churches and positive thinking churches.

Expository preaching is the verse-by-verse method of teaching the word of God.

Usually, a pastor or minister will take a selected passage or even an entire book of the Bible and methodically go verse by verse through that passage explaining the context and application of the selected passage.

This method is currently being used by groups such as Calvary Chapel and John McArthur’s followers.

The Pro’s and Con’s of Topical Preaching.

Topical preaching allows two things. It forces and allows the preacher to better communicate the heart of God to their congregation and it gives the people a better insight into the entirety of the Bible and how it fits all together.

With good topical preaching, the pastor has to go before God and hear what He wants to communicate with His people. He must be “spirit-led” so to say.

Topical preaching allows you to address real needs that people have within your congregation. It gives you the freedom that is not available with expository preaching.

Topical preaching gives your congregation the big picture. It allows you to show how God developed and progressed themes in scripture over time.

It also prevents you from using one biblical text to support a position on an issue.

When you use many texts from many portions of scripture then you have a clear idea of what the entire Bible says on a subject.

The weaknesses of topical preaching really come from the weaknesses of the preacher.

This method can be used to preach against problems in the church or preach based on the preacher’s agenda. Picking on the congregation or picking on individuals from the pulpit is a serious breach of ethics by a pastor.

Topical preaching many times makes it difficult to convey the context of a particular passage.

Many times context is very important when coming to a biblical interpretation of a passage and just giving supporting passages may not convey the original intent of the author of the passage. Context is not everything but context can be very important.

The Pro’s and Con’s of Expository Preaching

Expository preaching has 2 great strengths. It allows the preacher to explain the context in which the passage was written and it makes sure that all topics and issues pertaining to the Christian life eventually are dealt with.

The context in which a passage is written is very important. Many times, if we do not understand the culture and understand the issue that was being addressed in a passage we can view it within our own cultural context and apply it to something that it was never meant to be applied to. Expository preaching keeps the message in its context.

Expository preaching also ensures that all the subjects that are pertinent to the Christian life are eventually covered.

If you follow a methodical plan of teaching the Bible book by book, chapter by chapter, and verse by verse, you will eventually cover every subject.

It is important that all parts of the Christian faith are covered when teaching our people. If we don’t then we eventually have people that are out of balance and only have part of what they need.

The weaknesses of expository preaching are that the congregation never gets to see how everything ties together. They only know the passage, and the context, they do not see the big picture.

They do not see how the plans of God were set in motion and how He worked through time to put them all into place.

Expository preaching can also be weak when a pastor or minister uses one passage of scripture to try to make a doctrine or teaching out of that passage.

All teaching has to line up not only with a particular passage but with the whole of scripture as well.

Many times when trying to make an application out of a passage of scripture, the preacher will forget to check to see if that application lines up with other similar passages or applications in scripture.

Which Type of Preaching is Better?

Neither.

Both have their strengths and weaknesses.

Both can be and are used by God.

In all honesty, what it comes down to is balance.

Before 1960 we had a preponderance of pastors who taught topically. It caused a vacuum within the body of Christ and the need for more understanding of context and a fuller range of topics covered in our churches.

That vacuum was filled by the modern-day expository preachers.

However today, we now have a vacuum appearing concerning people understanding the big picture in the scriptures and the basics of our Christian faith.

In my church, I do my best to use both methods.

I must admit, I am a better topical preacher but that doesn’t keep me from preaching expository as well.

So, if you have sat under expository preaching all of your life, I would suggest you widen your horizons and find some good topical preachers and do some topical Bible studies.

If you are the opposite and have sat under topical preachers most of your life, then find some good Bible expositors to listen to and learn how to do an expository Bible study.

Get to the place where you have balance in this area of your life.

If you are a pastor that does either topical preaching or expository preaching alone, then I would encourage you to rethink what is best. Your people need both.

Blessings!

Pastor Duke

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