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Olford says cure for spiritual, social ills is expository preaching

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–“With all that’s been happening in the White House (and) in our country, I want to tell you there’s a rebuking word that needs to be spoken without shame, without sham, without shrinking,” said Stephen Olford at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s second annual Pastor Appreciation Day Oct 15., in Louisville, Ky.
“We need an evangelical conscience that surges with wrath and holy jealousy for God’s glory in our country. … Why [aren’t people condemning] what has been happening in our country at highest levels today? … The light has dimmed, the salt has lost its savor and tang. We’re no longer a convicting element within our contemporary society. … Why?” Olford asked. “The pulpit is stale. … You and I have to admit the average sermon today is a work of shame instead of holy pride” which dishonors God and disgraces church members, he said. “What is not expository is not Christian,” he continued, citing British pastor and author John Stott.
Olford — son of missionaries, a former pastor and the founder of Encounter Missions and the Stephen Olford Center for Biblical preaching — also noted the ignorance on the subject: One church member thought expository preaching was some kind of insect. A student at a seminary was overheard to say, “I know nothing about suppository preaching,” Olford recounted.
With words that rang with as much compassionate conviction and as did his voice with a bold British accent, Olford offered three lectures to some 200 pastors and countless students that detailed his perceptions of what biblical preachers ought to be, do and say. The lectures, which focused on expository preaching, were titled, “The Christian Ministry,” “The Christian Method” and “The Christian Message.”
Olford cited 2 Timothy 4, saying Christian ministry is “consecrated” and “sacrosanct” and includes “rightly dividing the word of truth.” Commonly understood as proper preaching, the Greek phrase translated “rightly dividing the word of truth” means more, Olford asserted: “Paul is calling here for … persistent zeal (and) disciplined living — the most hated word on seminary campus or anywhere else.
“In a day of sloppiness and laziness and slothfulness we need to get back to the concept of Christian ministry,” Olford said. Most expositional sermons require 25 to 30 hours of preparation, he continued. “Do you know how maximize your time in order to get that amount of study in, as against the many things we do that have absolutely nothing to do with the expounding the Word of God?” Olford asked. “And yet that is the supreme task of the preacher.”
Christian ministry requires a living sacrifice that burns to consumption, he said. “When I lay my life on the altar of God’s acceptance … I’m to hold that sacrifice at the center of that flame with the flesh hooks of discipline and determination until it is wholly consumed.”
Quoting King David, Olford observed, “‘Neither will I offer unto the Lord my God that which costs me nothing.’” The Apostle Paul’s sacrifice cost him his life. But he never abandoned his studies. Near death, Paul begged Timothy, “‘Bring the books, especially the parchments.’ Here is a man facing death. Any day he’ll be led off by the hand of an unknown soldier and be decapitated. … Paul never gave up studying, nor must we,” Olford said.
Olford’s address, “The Christian Method,” defined expository preaching: “Expository preaching is the Spirit-anointed explanation and proclamation of the text of God’s Word with due regard to the historical, contextual, grammatical and doctrinal significance of the key or the said passage with the specific object invoking a Christ-transforming response.”
Olford’s impetus for expository preaching is threefold: It’s scriptural, it’s spiritual and it’s sensible, he said. Asserting the scriptural nature of exposition, Olford referred to Christ’s post-resurrection encounter with two men on the road to Emmaus, as recorded Luke 24 where Jesus explained all the Scriptures concerning himself. Citing the late C.H. Spurgeon — another noted British pastor and author — Olford said: “As all roads lead to Rome, so all texts lead to Christ.”
Expositional preaching is spiritual because “you can’t dichotomize between the Word of God and the Spirit of God,” he said. “When the Lord Jesus announced the coming of the Holy Spirit, he said, ‘I will pray the Father that he may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name. He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all things I have said to you.’ Expository preaching cannot be divorced from the power of the Holy Spirit, the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the enabling of the Holy Spirit. … Our proclamation must be authentic in the sense that its source and force come from God through his Word, through the Holy Spirit.”
The sensibility of expository preaching is rooted in Christian maturity, Olford said, which comes through proper Bible teaching. “Why are 53,000 people leaving our churches every week and never returning? Why?” They can’t discern between good and evil, he said. “And you’re not a sensible preacher if you don’t teach the Word of God.”
The Christian message is specific for revelation, restoration, regulation and instruction in righteousness, he said. Yet Olford said he heard a man say, “‘I don’t mind expounding the Word of God, but I don’t preach doctrine.’ I can’t imagine a more gruesome contradiction in terms. Paul says, ‘Preach the Word.’ Be instant in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and what? Doctrine. Doctrine. Doctrine. Our people need doctrine. Our people must be warned and taught in the congregation concerning doctrine.”
Olford said the most important function of the Christian message is evangelism: “Do the work of an evangelist. If we’re not doing that, then we’re not acting as a church.” Pastors must discern the gift, deploy the gifts and then to do the work of evangelism, he added.
Saying he is “encouraged” by an intensifying hunger for expository preaching among men “from every conceivable part of the church,” Olford said, “There’s a bleak moral problem out there which I referred to earlier. But I am grateful to God that there are men who see that just homilies, stories, tear-jerkers … do not solve the problem. We’ve got to get back to the Word. God has spoken, and he has spoken his final word in his Son, Jesus Christ, revealed in Scripture and made real by the Holy Spirit. And that’s the only answer to a lost world.”

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  • Norman Miller