The February 2010 edition of The Banner of Truth contains an article by Iain Murray warning of the disadvantages of ‘expository’ preaching (by which he mean “preaching which consecutively takes a congregation through a passage, or book of Scripture, week by week). Unfortunately the article is not online, but you can read a summary here. Iain is right to warn of the dangers, but as the letter below (which I’ve just sent to Banner HQ) says, I think he goes too far:
I believe Iain Murray (February 2010) overstates his case for non-‘expository’ preaching. First, the preacher’s responsibility is to preach ‘the whole counsel of God’. If I am to preach through a large part of the Bible over a ministry, I will need to preach on texts significantly longer than a single verse (otherwise it would take more than 200 years to get through the 31,000 verses in the Bible).
Second, preachers should model the handling of the scripture from the pulpit. Preaching is very different to private devotion or study. But it is from the pulpit that our congregation will learn how to read the Bible for themselves. Would we want our congregation’s regular devotions to be a meditation on a single verse, plucked apparently at random?
Third, I want unbelievers to be utterly convinced that the gospel application in a sermon is from God’s Word. A great danger with non-‘expository’ preaching is that whilst the sermon’s content may be very biblical, it is not seen to be biblical by the unconverted because the preacher’s text serves only as a spring-board and not as a foundation.
Fourth, I reject the ‘either/or’ antithesis. In being committed to ‘expository’ preaching, I am not rejecting preaching that helps the hearers, is memorable, evangelistic and relies on the Spirit. It is true that attempting to preach in an expository style can expose inadequacies in the preacher. It is true that a running commentary is not a sermon, and that you can be faithful to the Word yet fail to preach, and fail to know the Spirit’s power. But I do not believe only an elite few should attempt to preach in an ‘expository’ way. Mr. Murray’s advice that novice preachers tread carefully is wise. But every Christian should always be maturing and growing. Safe, easy methods that stretch neither the preacher nor the congregation are a recipe for dull sermons, tired preachers and bored congregations.