Expository vs. Topical Preaching
This is one of the most frustrating debates to listen to. Frankly, I heard this argument so much in Bible college that I almost don’t want to blog about it for sheer annoyance sake. However it fits into this subject of preaching and deserves addressing. Allow me first to provide appropriate definitions:
Expository preaching: A format of preaching where one Scripture text is the primary context of the message. All points are derived from this text and, the message typically flows in the order of the passage.
Topical preaching: A format of preaching where the preacher selects a topic and builds his message around the subject with supporting Scripture on the subject. The points are derived from the topic as oppose to Scripture, but Scripture is typically used just as much.
Where I came from, expository preaching was treated as “Biblical preaching” as opposed to topical preaching which was only for “itching ears and people-pleasing.”
So which do I prefer now? Both. I am a preacher. Preachers are responsible for feeding their people what they need to be fed. Sometimes that is best done by breaking down a passage of Scripture verse by verse. At other times, people need to hear a biblical message on the topic of finances, relationships, dealing with adversity, trusting God, forgiving, or any number of thousands of other topics addressed in the Bible.
Jesus almost always preached topical messages. A topical message takes on average 3 times as long to prepare as an expository message. Both are tools that a well-equipped preacher draws from at the appropriate times.
And these are not the only tools to preaching. Some messages flow like a list of points and passages (Be-Attitudes). Others are narrative and tell a story (like Jesus did with parables). Others are interactive. Regardless, a good preacher knows that the word is the final source of authority and that each message should be designed to hit a specific audience. Topical preaching is not evil. Expository preaching is not the best or only way to to preach.
For me, I typically preach series that are topical in nature, but each message in that series is often an expository message. But I do preach expository series. And I also preach topical messages as well as other formats of delivering God’s word.
As preachers we need to be Biblical and yet creative in the way we communicate. We preach for impact. We preach for life change. Let’s use the right tools for the right job.