by John Meador
How can the Spirit lead me when I preach expositionally?"
That's a question all true shepherds should want the answer to. At the heart of pastoring, there is the need to be both relevant and biblical. The need to be balanced in biblical wisdom and to-the-point application for the corporate life of the church is key.
A pastor need not feel that he must always (and only) be preaching an entire book to his congregation. We don't have that mandate in the Scriptures, but we do have the mandate to "preach the Word," which points to text-driven preaching, instead of merely preaching with the Word. In other words, I should focus on preaching texts, and those texts can come either consecutively in a book, or selectively as I sense God leading.
There will always be those who respond by saying that God's Spirit already inspired the Bible books, their words, and their order, and we should stay exclusively with that approach, but few of those same people begin in Genesis with the mind to preach through to Revelation. They'd be right that God's Spirit did give us the words and order, but they'd be wrong to insist that all biblical preaching takes that particular order each time. None of the preaching examples we have in the New Testament takes that approach to the Old Testament. There is a pattern of using God's Word as a sword to deal with all aspects of congregational and community life.
Recently, having been led to focus on the role of God's Holy Spirit, I began to read all the passages that deal with the Spirit of God, and found them woven throughout the Bible. What a beautiful picture of God's tapestry of involvement in our lives, when we see him at work and especially when we don't! Preaching that, however, was a different matter in my expositional way of thinking. How do I approach this all-important matter in an expositional manner?
I sought the counsel of a few well-known expositors who showed me how they undertook the same task in their years of ministry. They, to a man, preached selected passages found throughout Scripture, and treated each text as an expositional message in a specific way. Instead of the text being a part of the entire book of the Bible, the text became part of the whole of Scripture-a healthy thing, indeed. And, as those texts were expounded, we were able to see the Spirit's ongoing involvement in our lives-beginning to end.
I'm not sure there is a more controversial issue today across the family of God than the work and role of the Holy Spirit. Those who do not emphasize the work of the Spirit in their teaching and ministry may well be yearning for the power and conviction that Jesus promised would be present with the Holy Spirit. Congregations may have many incorrect ideas about the Holy Spirit, particularly in light of so much teaching that is not biblical. Others may not realize all we have in Christ-and that God is literally with us and in us through the indwelling Spirit. We must get the truth to them!
The fact that there is no one single book that speaks primarily and comprehensively about the Holy Spirit does not mean that an expositional preacher is at a loss in dealing with this all-important subject. No, our principle task is to "preach the Word" and to let our preaching be text-centered. It is about letting the God-breathed words have a life of their own by honoring the text, the context, and the actual meanings of the words. This is the work of the Spirit-and conviction comes as we focus on Scripture.
I want to make sure that I present a well-balanced "diet" of God's Word to the people I've been called to pastor. Year in and year out, for me, that means that I am preaching a book (perhaps two) of the Bible every year in the main weekend services. At the same time, that year may also be a time when God is leading me to focus on certain aspects of Scripture that could be seen primarily in a particular text-or chapter. These are all expositional-they are all text-driven-and they are all profitable to build and equip those we've been called to minister to. These we can do with confidence!
Let the Spirit lead you!
John Meador is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Euless, Texas.