In his recent book on preaching, Tim Keller sets out six reasons for preachers to do expository preaching. Keller distinguishes expository preaching from topical preaching (which may cover such things as evangelistic talks or talks on specific doctrinal themes). While not ruling out a place for more topical sermons, he proposes that expository preaching should be the main kind of preaching for a Christian community.
Here are his reasons:
- Expository preaching is the best means for the preacher to convey the conviction that the whole Bible is true.
- Careful expository preaching helps listeners to see that the authority rests in God and not in the preacher’s opinions.
- ‘Expository preaching enables God to set the agenda for your Christian community.’
- Similarly, expository preaching means that the text sets the agenda for the preacher (keeps preachers off hobby horses!).
- Expository sermons teach the audience how to read their own Bibles.
- Not only does expository preaching help to keep preachers off hobby horses, it should also lead them to see more clearly the main biblical theme (the gospel of Jesus).
As mentioned Keller does not wish to discredit topical preaching and he also addresses some of the dangers associated with expository preaching.
Interestingly he comments on the limitations of spending too long on one Bible book (I once spent a year in 1 Corinthians); if you minister in a mobile context where a family might only be in your church for a couple of years (say a city church or an international church), you would want them to learn from more than one book.
I’m currently working my way through the book and so far I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to think through their own preaching ministry – whether you are just getting started or whether you have been in the business for a while and could use some stimulation and challenge.