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Theology dean: ‘return to the exposition of the Word of God’

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–The pulpits of American churches are being used for something other than what was intended, said David Allen, dean of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s School of Theology in Fort Worth, Texas.

Allen is the director of Southwestern’s Center for Expository Preaching, begun in 2005 to help seminary students and veteran ministers hone their preaching skills. The former pastor of MacArthur Blvd. Baptist Church in Irving, Texas, Allen travels to preaching conferences to promote the need preach the Bible verse by verse.

It’s that message that he preached during the annual Pastors’ Conference at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., in February.

“Today there is a crisis in the pulpits of America. There is a crisis in the pulpits of the evangelical church and, yes, there is a crisis in the pulpits of many Southern Baptist churches,” Allen said at the conference. Preaching largely has become an effort to utilize personal experiences, pop psychology, and therapeutic and narrative preaching to reach the people in the pews, he said.

Allen cited Jeremiah 10:21 as a warning to preachers to return to the preaching of the Bible as it was intended to be preached, through the exposition of each verse. In the passage, Jeremiah warns: “For the shepherds have become stupid and not sought the Lord; therefore, they shall not prosper and all their flocks shall be scattered.”

The verse reflects three consequences of refusing to listen to God and properly deal with His Word, Allen said. First, there is a personal loss, he said, because the person who is supposed to preach the Word becomes “stupid.” The neglect of the Word of God has become so rampant, he said, that countless ministers have begun to download sermons from the Internet. On the other hand, ministers often deal so lightly with the text that they only entertain “and then let the people connect the dots.”

Failing to expound the Word of God also results in a professional loss, Allen said, quoting Jeremiah’s warning that these kinds of shepherds “shall not prosper.”

“God help us to understand the difference between a crowd and a church. Anyone can draw a crowd,” Allen said, noting that many people attend churches to hear a comforting message which validates culture. Preaching, however, should do the opposite, he said.

“Preaching has always been counter-cultural,” Allen said. “You cannot conform to culture and still preach the Gospel.”

And failing to properly preach the Word of God will result in a pastoral loss, Allen said, or, as the prophet wrote, “their flocks shall be scattered.”

“My plea, my challenge, my call to you is to return to the exposition of the Word of God,” Allen said, “and, if you are an expositor, hold the line, carry the torch and preach the Bible so that the people will know God.”

Allen said he learned the art of expository preaching from his two mentors, Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson and Jerry Vines, retired pastor of First Baptist Jacksonville. As a young man, Allen sat under the teaching of Vines while he was pastor of a Georgia church. Later, Allen attended the Criswell College and studied under Patterson.

“These men are my two ‘Pauls,’ my models for ministry,” Allen said as he credited them with passing the legacy of expository preaching on to him.

Vines, as well as his successor at First Baptist Jacksonville, Mac Brunson, will assist Allen in discussing expository preaching at the second annual Expository Preaching Workshop at Southwestern Seminary March 6-7.

Vines will discuss how to preach through the Book of Job. He will also speak in chapel March 7. Others to be featured at the conference include Patterson; O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources and a former pastor of First Baptist Dallas; and Allen.

Thomas White, director of the seminary’s Center for Leadership Development, said the purpose of this year’s conference is not to defend the need for expository preaching but to attempt to aid preachers in giving better expository sermons. Each speaker will present a sermon, discuss his method of preparation and then field questions from the audience.
For more information on the Southwestern Seminary Expository Preaching Workshop, log on to www.swbts.edu/center/conferences.cfm.

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  • Gregory Tomlin