Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Exposition or Exhibition?

They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
(Nehemiah 8:6 – ESV)

We as preachers are urged to deliver sermons that explain texts, that is, to preach expositionally. This is perhaps best defined as making the point of the passage the point of the sermon. Indeed, this is the right way to go about feeding the flock. However, in endeavoring to dig deep into the text in order to show you that it says what it says, there is a real danger of digging past the gold and being enthralled with the digging itself. We can become consumed, not with exposing Christ, but exhibiting our skill.

Showing what the text says is right, but it is about declaring it, not deciphering it. Proving it says what it says isn’t always beneficial. If a passage is unclear, then digging helps, but if it is clear, and most texts are, proclamation can be had without having to show how hard you may have worked to get there. Showing the process of our exegetical work can be overdone, to the detriment of the devoted, including ourselves. We can become concerned for the knowledge of every little nuance of a text, and every little meaning from the original language, instead of hungering for the wisdom to apply the text to our lives. We become hearers, studiers, and experts in knowing what to believe but fail to know the One whom we believe more intimately. We must be careful, because while digging is often necessary and good, we can suffocate by being trapped in a hole of our own making.

It can get to the point where we begin an atomistic break down of every verse, every sentence, every phrase, every word, and we think we have done every service to the text, but we haven’t. All we have done is taken every step to assure us of missing the forest from the trees. We have exposed, not the scope or the depth of the text, but the breadth of our pride.

In sales it is often said we should use the “sizzle not the steak”, but preachers aren’t salesmen, they are shepherds and proclaimers. Sure we are to make the meal appetizing, but we don’t feed them the sizzle, they, and we, must eat the steak.

Of course, surface dwelling of the text can be just as bad, but that discussion is for another time. When you have the basic sense of what the passage teaches, then you have the basic sense of the message. Please, have the basic sense to realize when to stop digging and when to start developing what you have already mined. We are creating a legion of Bible students who may know Greek but they don’t know God.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©


Garry Weaver said...

Your post reminds me of a cartoon I once saw of an "Expository preacher". The preacher was saying:"Our text for today is James chapter 3, verse 1, 2nd word, 2nd letter "r"; now stop right there!"

Sadly we can get burdened down with details and fail to exalt Christ.

Great post.

Even So... said...

Indeed, Garry, it is a real danger, to ourselves and to the people who hear us...

donsands said...

Great wisdom JD. Balance is a word most over used in the Church, but it seems to fit here.

Your a humble servant my brother, may the Lord makes us all so, keep on.

Sista Cala said...

"We have exposed, not the scope or the depth of the text, but the breadth of our pride."

That line sounds like something I recall hearing in my homiletics class. A true and most powerful statement.

Some preachers that preach this way, do so because that is all they have to give. They have no unction from the Holy Ghost. Sad.

Even So... said...

Right on, sister...