I’m a fan of expository speaking. Lest someone misunderstand, I fully agree that there is a time and place for topical sermons. Generally, however, I think the church is far better served by a steady diet of consistent, systematic explanation of the biblical text. There are lots of advantages to the expository approach. For one thing, it helps counteract the tendency of preachers to ride their favorite hobby horses. It forces you to talk about the subjects actually in the text rather than the enthusiasm of the day. Similarly, systematic expository speaking forces you to deal with the difficult and hard subjects you’d rather avoid. For example, it may not be politically correct to talk about adultery and divorce. But, if you’re doing an expository series on the “Sermon on the Mount,” you can’t sweep under the rug what Jesus had to say on the subject – regardless of whether it happens to offend somebody.
On the problem of speaking effectively.
Whatever charisma may be, I don’t seem to have much of it. No, I’m not talking about the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit such as the ability to perform miracles or speak in foreign languages without first studying them. (Though I don’t have that kind of charisma either!) I’m talking about whatever it is that some people have which automatically attracts others to them and makes them want to listen to what they have to say. The whole issue of what makes people want to listen has recently become important to me because I’ve been told (rather pointedly!) that there are some who don’t like my speaking style.
Why do we have sermons, and is there a better alternative?
Those of us who have grown up in the church are so conditioned by the way things are done that we rarely, if ever, ask ourselves why we do it that way. Even those outside the church, but have grown up in a Western culture, have a mental image of what a church assembly is supposed to be like. There’s no doubt that the centerpiece in most protestant church assemblies, whether evangelical, charismatic, fundamentalist, conservative or liberal, is the sermon. But why? What’s so special about sermons and why is so much importance given to them?
Lest I incur the premature wrath of any preachers who happen to read this, let me hasten to say that there is a time and place for sermons. I give them, too. But I do question the emphasis given to sermons and the exalted role they have in the typical church assembly.