10 Reasons Why Some Preachers Don’t Preach Expository Sermons

10 Reasons Why Preachers Dont Preach Expository Sermons - Expositional Preaching

Editor’s Note: This article is also available in Spanish at The Gospel Coalition (Coalicion por el Evangelio).

The driving factor behind Leadership Resources’ ministry training pastors in expositional preaching is our conviction that when God’s Word is clearly proclaimed and applied to life; sinners are saved, lives are changed, and believers grow in maturity and knowledge of God. Expository preaching is the practice that most enables God to speak for Himself through His Word.

Expository preaching is the practice that most enables God to speak for Himself through His Word.

For many of us accustomed to expository preaching, the practice seems like a no-brainer. Why would someone NOT want to preach their sermon directly from God’s Word? After all, Paul commands Timothy to preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2)! 

What seems obvious to us may not be so for others. Beneath the surface of their hesitations lie a variety of reasons: possibly they are influenced by different convictions, a lack of knowledge, a misunderstanding or misapplication of Scriptural truth, or simply personal preference.

While we don’t believe that expository preaching is the only type of preaching God can use (biblically-sound topical preaching can be very helpful for certain cultural or congregational needs when wisely discerned), we do believe that expository preaching should be the main practice of preachers and the main diet of congregations.

10 Reasons Why Preachers Don’t Preach Expository Sermons

Reason #1: They don’t know God’s desire for preaching.

God desires us to faithfully speak what He has already communicated (see Exodus 4:10-16; Jeremiah 23:9-40; John 7:16, 8:28-29). We act as messengers carrying the words God has spoken, and God makes His appeal through us (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Some of Leadership Resources’ training is done through translators to non-English speakers. If we were to find out that a translator communicated something different than what we had spoken, we would be upset because that translator would be straying from his or her purpose. Our role in preaching is like that of a translator–we need to faithfully receive and transmit God’s message.

Reason #2: They don’t consider the Bible relevant for the 21st Century.

Those who think that the Bible is not relevant for today misunderstand both the purpose and timelessness of Scripture. God’s plan for Scripture was twofold: to communicate to a specific people in a specific time and also to preserve His message for future generations. Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Cultural fads come and go, but “the Word of the Lord remains forever” (1 Peter 1:25).

Reason #3: They have an incorrect view on how to use the Bible in preaching.

There’s a common adage that says, “A text without a context is a pre-text for a proof-text.” This means that you can say whatever you want when taking a verse or passage out of its biblical, historical, and literary contexts. The Bible is not a book of magic spells; nor is it a bag of trail mix that allows you to pick out the good stuff and avoid what you don’t like. When we preach the Bible or quote the Bible, we need to say what the Bible is saying–nothing more and nothing less.

Reason #4: They are not equipped to preach the Word.

85% of pastors in the world have little or no formal Bible training and simply may not be equipped to preach the Word. A lack of experience listening to good examples of expository messages or a lack of understanding the Bible may also contribute to not preaching expositionally.

One of the purposes of the Fellowship of the Word program is to train church leaders in the Scriptures with the purpose of preaching God’s Word with God’s heart.

Reason #5: They don’t have enough time to prepare.

Pastoral ministry often seems like a never-ending job. Some preachers do not think that they have time to prepare in the Word each week because other pastoral duties suck up all of their prep time. For solo pastors in small churches, this might seem especially difficult. If that is you, reevaluate your schedule so that feeding your congregation with God’s Word from the pulpit is a priority. Your people’s spiritual growth, maturity, and fruitfulness depend on it.

Reason #6: They don’t want to prepare in the Word.

Some have the necessary time to prepare in the Word, but simply don’t want to. They may prefer the ease of sharing stories of lessons they’ve learned or might be too lazy to do the hard work it takes to handle the Word of God correctly in preaching. Preacher: follow Paul’s charge to Timothy and, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Reason #7: They have only heard bad examples of expository preaching.

Some equate the term “expository preaching” with dry academic lectures that quote the Greek too much and tell you everything about ancient Philistia–but never apply anything to your life. We shouldn’t let bad examples of expository preaching cloud our thinking of the biblical mandate to preach God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:2). True expository preaching explains the text of Scripture, communicates the author’s intent, and applies it’s message to our listeners.

Reason #8: They think preaching the Word hinders the work of the Spirit in preaching.

Many believe the false dichotomy that if they preach a message from the text of Scripture, they won’t “let the Spirit move.” In reality, preachers should preach the Word in the power of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture and the one who illuminates it’s meaning (2 Peter 1:21). Rather than getting in the way, the Spirit aids listeners in receiving the Word by faith (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

Reason #9: Their people prefer other types of preaching.

A friend of mine recently asked someone why he likes the church he attends. The man replied, “Because they don’t preach from the Bible.” Unfortunately, that is all too common.

Paul warned Timothy that, “people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Not everyone wants to hear the Bible preached. Because of this, preaching the Bible might lead to suffering. In such situations, we are to, “be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).

Reason #10: They don’t view Scripture as authoritative.

Losing the authority of Scripture leaves preachers chasing the wind in an ever-changing culture with a message that bears little or no resemblance to biblical Christianity. The authority of Scripture is what gives the preacher and his congregation confidence in his message because he is proclaiming God’s message and not his own.

The Task of a Preacher

Preachers are to work hard to know and proclaim the message that God delivers in Scripture. This means understanding the context of a passage, it’s structure, it’s main idea, how it points to Christ, and how it applies to everyday life (learn more). Without each of those elements, we can tamper with God’s message by preaching moralism instead of the gospel, focusing on minor details while losing the main idea, or speaking our imperfect thoughts instead of God’s perfect Word.

If you have let any of the ten above reasons distract you from clearly explaining and applying Scripture, commit yourself to change. God’s Word is too important for us to proclaim anything else.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” 2 Timothy 3:16-4:2

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Kevin Halloran

Servant of the Word. Husband. Blogs weekly at Anchored in Christ. Content Strategist/Trainer in Latin America with Leadership Resources International.