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Pseudo-expository preaching

It is not the preacher’s job to “make the text relevant”, but to underline, to emphasize how it is relevant to the particular listeners before us.

Photo: [link]S. H. Gue[/link], Unsplash CC0.

If you have a commitment to expository Biblical preaching, then some versions of preaching obviously stand out as poor. 

The anecdotal platitudinal rambling with a verse attached won’t fool many of us.  The non-expository topical sermon where verses aren’t handled with care and the Bible isn’t in authority over the message, we can usually spot those too (note that it is possible to preach an expository-topical message, so not all topical is bad!) 

But the category I label as pseudo-expository can be much harder to spot.

Pseudo-exp preaching is where the preacher appears to be preaching the text, but falls short of any of the four elements in an expository preaching definition. 

The four elements are:


1 – The Holy Spirit

True preaching cannot be simply the application of a mechanistic preparation process, or simply the fruit of good learning.  True preaching has to be a work of God.  This is very difficult to genuinely discern in others. 

Sometimes you can tell from a preacher’s attitude or lifestyle.  But these can be faked.  Yet if we turn the focus onto ourselves, it becomes a searching question – is your preaching done in your own power, or in prayerful and humble reliance on the empowering of the Spirit of God?


2 – The Bible text rightly understood

Some people will be fooled by preaching that bounces off words in a text to say whatever the preacher wants to say.  But true preaching reflects genuine study and understanding of the text.

Genuine study and understanding will not be equally profound in every preacher.  If you feel inadequate in this area, don’t be intimidated and give up.  Keep growing in your study skills and your Bible knowledge. 

In respect to the next message, try to stick in your passage and grasp it as effectively as you can.  The basics done well will be a blessing to all. 

But if you short-cut by bouncing off words, or using the text to give your own message, then that’s pseudo-expository.


3 – The issue of effective communication

I suppose this is somewhat subjective, but I would argue that a preacher deliberately not improving in their ability to communicate (perhaps due to a misunderstanding of 1Cor.2:1-5), is undermining their own stewardship of the ministry opportunity. 

Furthermore it is worth noting that our communication is not just about logos and pathos during the delivery, but the ethos of the entire life.


4 – The emphasized relevance of the passage

It is not the preacher’s job to “make the text relevant.”  It already is relevant.  But it is our job to underline, to emphasize how it is relevant to the particular listeners before us.  Pseudo-expository preaching that is pseudo because of inadequacy in this respect is easier to spot if you’re looking for it. 

The text is explained, but application is ignored.  “Now may the Spirit of God apply to our hearts the truths we have seen in His Word . . . “ that’s a confession of pseudo-expository preaching! 

The whole thing is the Spirit’s work, not just this bit.  The issue of relevance and application part of our task as preachers.  We have to be concerned about the text and about the listeners.

I suppose we could deploy a task force of pseudo-expository detectives. Some pseudo-expository preaching is blatant and as easy to spot as a daylight ram-raid on a high street jewellers. 

However, other pseudo-expository preaching would require a team of detectives with forensic back-up (I’m thinking of the “sneak thieves” in that great children’s book, Flat Stanley!) 

But it is not our task to deploy task forces of pseudo-expository detectives.  Instead, let’s imagine such a task force visiting us.  What would they find?  Would they unearth some aspect of pseudo-exposition? 

Could they, in grace, of course, put their finger on a lack of spirituality, or exegetical rigor, or communicative effort, or concern for listeners in need of biblical encounter with God?

Peter Mead is mentor at Cor Deo and author of several books. He blogs at Biblical Preaching




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