Expositional Preaching Changes Lives

by John Meador

Expositional preaching has fallen on hard times. In an entertainment-hungry world, and with an increasingly entertainment-hungry church, it would appear that there is just too much serious stuff in exposition for it to appeal to anyone today. We think it doesn't have the pinpoint "zing" that we can create by delivering "message candy" of hot topics and controversial issues, so pastors are rejecting exposition in growing numbers, it seems.

One state-wide church leader of a major denomination recently shared with me that he could name only three pastors in over 1,000 churches in his state that to his knowledge used exposition on a regular basis. The result, he says, is growth without depth. It means a growing number of people are not being equipped to deal with life, yet are in church week after week.

It means that Christ-followers have little more success than the world in overcoming the challenges of life, because their leaders are doing little more than touching the surface of the truth that sets men free. Believers cannot handle the serious stuff of life, because they aren't hearing the serious stuff of the Scripture. Faith does still come by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

It is hard to argue with the statistics that demonstrate how little difference there is between the world and the church in America. The George Barna Research Group reveals an alarming trend. When surveying "born-again" Christians, that is those who state that they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and who believe they'd go to heaven when they die because of Christ's death on the cross for them, here are the results:

Half of born-again Christians (46%) agree that Satan is "not a living being but is a symbol of evil" (2005).

About one-third of born-agains (33%) believe that if people are good enough they can earn a place in heaven (2005).

28% of born-agains agree that "while He lived on earth, Jesus committed sins, like other people," compared to 42% of all adults (2005).

Born-again Christians are more likely than non-born again individuals to accept moral absolutes. Specifically, 32% of born-agains said they believe in moral absolutes (2002).

Source: www.barna.org

As leaders, we must answer to that problem, one way or another. These are the kinds of people that are in our churches, so why would less than half believe that Satan is a literal being, and over a third believe that works will get one into heaven? How could over one-fourth of those folks surveyed believe that Jesus committed sins? Why is it that only one-third of those who are born again believe in moral absolutes?

Need I answer that question? Oh, well, I will anyway: they are not being taught what the Scripture says by their pastors and leaders where they worship. And, by default, if it is not important to the leaders, the followers don't believe it is important for them to go to the Scriptures at home for themselves.

Years ago, while pastoring a church that was experiencing slow, but steady growth, I found myself at the crossroads of life and ministry. Just down the road, less than one mile away was a burgeoning mega-church that was doubling in attendance every year. I knew the pastor was a good man, as creative a communicator as you can find, and I knew their growth was at least in part due to his style of communication.

I found myself wanting to either criticize his methods or copy them. Why? Because I wanted his results, that's why! My ultimate decision, however, was not to criticize him, nor to emulate him, but to ask: "What has God called ME to do? What has He promised to bless?"

The conclusion, brought on by many other factors as well, was life-changing, both for me and the people I lead. Isaiah 55:11 was a verse God branded onto my heart: "So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it." Reading the entire passage, Isaiah 55:6-13, brought me to realize that God's ways of reaching and changing men are far better than mine. His thoughts have far more significance and power than even the best of my ideas and efforts. His word is like the seed that is planted-it sprouts true fruit that demonstrates changed lives.

His Word does what only the Word can do. The Word builds faith, it increases one's knowledge of God, it builds endurance in times of temptation, it gives direction and guidance for everyday living. It convicts of sin and corrects into the right way of living. In a word, it transforms.

My challenge to you is to ask the two questions that changed my ministry. "What has God called ME to do? What has He promised to bless?"

John Meador is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Euless, Texas.

2011 Disciple 155x50 2011 AMG 155x50
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