I am quickly learning that as a pastor one of the most common questions I receive is, “Why do you do it that way?” The questions pertains to anything from the worship elements of Sunday morning, entertainment choices, church organization, and even down to what tie I choose to wear (or not to wear). Probably the question that most people have for me as a pastor is, “Why do you preach the way you preach?” There are the young hipster pastors who wear skinny jeans and sip lattes while sitting on a barstool with their sermon quotes displayed via powerpoint. ‘Old-school’ preachers don a classic suit and tie while they pace and shout the power of their message. Some preachers are solemn and academic while others are dynamic and intense. If you went to a dozen churches you would find a dozen different styles. However, the question becomes which way is better? Which way is more faithful? You can weigh the merits of a preacher in a suit or in skinny jeans but in the end the presentation is not the ultimate focus. A pastor needs to be the man who God has made him to be in the cultural context he has been called to serve. What is of utmost importance is not the clothes, volume, or amount of technology but the focus of the sermon. This is why I am devoted to expository preaching of the text. “Expository preaching is preaching that takes for the point of a sermon the point of a particular passage of Scripture”. You probably noticed by now that I do not do topical sermons but instead preach through books of the Bible (1 John, 1 Peter, etc). The reason being is because I want the Word of God to set the agenda of my preaching. Each week I set about the task of studying, meditating, and praying through the text with the aim of proclaiming the central message of the text. Once I find the central message of the text I have found the focus of my sermon. I don’t preach topical sermons because I fear that my preconceived idea of what I want to preach will blind me to the actual meaning of the text. There is a great temptation to find a scripture to justify what I want to say to the congregation. There will be times in my ministry when it is necessary for me to preach a topical sermon on Christian love, racism, or salvation and I will find an applicable text. However, I don’t make it a pattern because I would run the risk of preaching my message and not Scripture’s message. Admittedly, topical sermons often seem more ‘relevant’ to the congregation. The relevance of ‘Five ways to be a better mother’, ‘How to deal with frustration’, and ‘Taming the Lions of Life’ are alluring. However, there is a deeper question; “What are we missing when we are listening for the wrong things?” If I am only listening for what I think is relevant, I will miss what God is telling me is vital to my spiritual growth. Ultimately, ‘we believe that God has Himself actually spoken. His Word is to be trusted and relied upon with all the faith that we would invest in God Himself.” There is a reason that God inspired the Biblical text. The Almighty God of the universe gave us the precious gift of His Word. He chose to step into the course of human history and inspire faithful men to write a message that would change the course of human history. We should be faithful to cherish it, sing it, preach it, and study it. Therefore, I desire to make a priority of letting scripture set the agenda and allow scripture to mold our worship, singing, and the topic of the sermon. I am confident that the Holy Spirit is a much better provider of your spiritual needs than I will ever be. May Ocean Park be faithful to devote ourselves to the whole counsel of scripture from Genesis to Revelation in order to hear the voice of God.
*all quotes taken from Mark Dever in "9 Marks of a Healthy Church"
Soli Deo Gloria