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Akin: Key scriptural exercises undergird healthy preaching

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Telling stories from the pulpit may be popular, but Danny Akin, dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s school of theology, believes expository preaching is still the best way to reach the lost.
Akin, in an Aug. 26 address at the Louisville, Ky., seminary, spoke about the popularity of narrative preaching.
“Preaching does continually come under attack, and not always from without,” Akin said. “Sometimes the attack comes from within — even within the evangelical camp. We live in a day where it is becoming very, very popular to emphasize a thing called narrative preaching — to emphasize the importance of ‘telling the story,’” he said.
Some have said traditional methods of preaching will no longer attract people, Akin said. He, however, does not believe the problem is expository preaching.
“I agree with Paige Patterson, the president of our convention, who says, ‘The criticisms I hear about expository preaching are in reality criticisms about boring preaching,’” Akin said.
“The greatest preaching in the earth is still captivating, prophetic, invigorating, Christ-honoring exposition,” Akin said.
“When you come to a story in the Bible, tell the story,” he continued. “But when you come to doctrine in the Bible, teach doctrine. Teach it zealously, teach it with energy, teach it faithfully and honor the author of Scripture who knew what he was doing when he gave it exactly like we find it.”
Akin, speaking on “spiritual exercises that make us strong,” used 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 to point out eight “spiritual exercises” for all Christians, and for ministers in particular.
Akin used the fifth exercise — “Do not despise prophesying” — to speak about the narrative-versus-exposition debate.
“One of the ways we may quench the Spirit is by despising or treating as nothing the preaching of the Word,” he said.
Evidently, Akin said, there was “a loss of respect” for preaching in the first century just as there is in the 20th century.
“According to 1 Corinthians 1:18, the preaching of the Word is the power of God,” Akin said. “We understand from 1 Corinthians 14:24 that the preaching of the Word convinces and convicts. We understand from 1 Thessalonians 1:5 that the preaching of the Word comes in the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Preaching in every generation has come under attack and has been treated as nothing,” he said.
Akin also emphasized the sixth spiritual exercise, “test all things,” which is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:20.
“I believe there is a four-fold test that we ought to apply to every teaching, every doctrine, every minister, every pastor who stands here and proclaims to say, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’” he said.
Akin called the first test the “Savior test.”
“We [should] step back and ask, ‘Is what is being taught and is what is being said honoring, glorifying and uplifting the name of our Lord Jesus Christ?’” Akin asked.
Christians should use the “Scripture test,” Akin said, to ask, “Is this that I am hearing consistent with not [only] part, but consistent with the totality of the written revelation of God?”
The third test, the “Spirit test,” Akin said, should lead Christians to ask, “Is this teaching in concert with the express desires and ministry of the Holy Spirit, whose intended purpose was to in all things glorify the Lord Jesus?”
The fourth test is the “saint test.”
“You step back and you ask, ‘What have other great men and women of God said about this?’” Akin said. “I like to say to my classes on biblical interpretation, ‘If you are the only person to interpret a passage in a certain way, you might be right, but you’re probably not.’”
Akin compared spiritual health to physical health, saying that in order to stay spiritually healthy all Christians must perform “spiritual exercise.”
The eight exercises Akin gave, taken from 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-22, were: rejoice always; pray unceasingly; in everything give thanks; do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophesying; test everything; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from evil.
“I believe the Apostle Paul gives us no less than eight different exercises that if we are constant and consistent to engage in them, we will indeed be spiritually healthy for the Lord,” Akin said. “Each of the main verbs in those eight exercises is an imperative. It is a word of command. God is not asking you, but commanding you. It is not that God is asking us to do these things perfectly, but God is asking us to do these things consistently. These should become daily, regular habits of your life.”

Foust is a newswriter at Southern Seminary.

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  • Michael Foust