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Expository preaching underscored

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–There is no true expositional preaching void of an exalted view of Scripture, R. Kent Hughes said in the first of three Northcutt Lectures at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Expository preaching “will only flourish when the preacher believes that Scripture is wholly inerrant, totally sufficient and massively potent,” said Hughes, senior pastor emeritus of College Church in Wheaton, Ill., and editor and contributor to the projected 50-volume “Preaching the Word” expository series.

Deuteronomy 32:46-47 and Matthew 4 demonstrate how Moses and Jesus saw God’s Word as life and sustenance, Hughes said, noting, “What the preacher believes about Scripture is everything.”

He voiced concern about “the contemporary slide to dys-exposition,” referring to the trend of many preachers who depart from the text and never return.

Hughes identified several abuses of Scripture associated with this type of preaching, including taking the text out of context, moralizing the text and attempting to preach where the text is silent. Using a “homiletics of consensus,” which focuses on the congregation’s felt needs, fails to realize that “their deepest needs are far deeper than their perceived needs,” he said.

Preachers succumb to the practice of dys-exposition for several reasons, Hughes said, listing “homiletical sloth,” for example, and a belief that the text is not sufficient to connect with the audience.

Hughes challenged those who teach the Bible to reject such approaches to preaching and gave reasons why expositional preaching is necessary. “Word and Spirit are inseparable. When the Word of God is expounded, the Spirit speaks,” Hughes said, pointing out that John 3:34 and 2 Timothy 3:16 describe the connectedness between the Word and Spirit.

Both apostolic and reformational preaching were expositional, Hughes noted, recounting, “It was taken for granted that all biblical preaching was expository preaching.”

Hughes concluded by sharing the personal benefits of sequential expository preaching. “You will preach texts you would never preach if they were possible to avoid,” he said. Additionally, preachers would never have to fret about what to preach on Sunday, he said, and they would be forced to grow as theologians.

In his second lecture at the Fort Worth, Texas, campus, Hughes used an interactive question-and-answer format to discuss how a preacher should prepare an expository sermon. His systematic process for expository preaching, Hughes said, begins with working out the theme of the entire book and dividing the book into homiletical sections. “When you understand what the book is about, then your texts will take on great vibrancy,” he said.

Many preachers struggle with laziness when it comes to preparing their sermons, but preaching is not rocket science, Hughes said, noting, “We can be good preachers, but it takes work.”

Hughes discussed his approach to using illustrations in a sermon and provided a handout with excerpts from his book, “1001 Great Stories & Quotes.” “We must also keep before us the understanding that when people remember an illustration but not the truth it illustrated, we have failed,” he said.

“Where there is no passion, there is no preaching,” Hughes said in his third lecture, which emphasized the character and zeal of the preacher. He encouraged individuals to make sure their passion matches their personality and is directed by the Holy Spirit.

“What we preach has to come through our souls,” Hughes said. “Let it be said of us, ‘His sermon was like thunder because his life was like lightning.'”

Hughes holds a doctor of ministry from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and a master of divinity from Talbot Seminary. He has authored 30 books, including the best-selling “Disciplines of a Godly Man.”

The Aug. 30-31 Jesse and Fannie Northcutt Lectures on Preaching and Pastoral Ministries were established in 1976 by Southwestern’s board of trustees. Northcutt served as a professor, dean and vice president at Southwestern Seminary from 1938-79. The lectures have been funded by gifts from benefactors, friends and family.
Keith Collier is a writer for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Recordings of R. Kent Hughes’ first lecture during Southwestern’s chapel service may be viewed, listened to or downloaded through the seminary’s website, www.swbts.edu. Copies of the second and third lectures are available on CD for a nominal fee through Southwestern’s media services office.

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  • Keith Collier