The Foundational Convictions of Expository Ministry (Phase One)

This is the first part of the series How to Shape Your Ministry Around Disciple Making. Listen below or read the transcript.


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Kevin Halloran

Kevin Halloran

Kevin Halloran: One of the major goals of Leadership Resources’ ministry in the U.S. and abroad is to develop an expositional mindset for ministry in the pastors and leaders we train.

I’m here with Sean Martin, who is the Program Director for our training in Europe. Sean would you tell us . . . What is an expositional mindset, and why is it so important?

Sean Martin

Sean Martin: I’d be happy to, Kevin. Before I talk about an expositional mindset, let me just define expository preaching or expository ministry.

There are many definitions out there about what expository ministry is or what an expository sermon is. Quite simply, the way I like to define an expository sermon is: teaching God’s Word with God’s intent.

We believe that God is a speaking God. That’s our conviction as evangelical Christians. God speaking through His Word always has intent. God’s Word always has a purpose. And so, expository preaching and teaching is quite simply teaching God’s Word with God’s intent so that the result will be life and transformation, which is always the goal of God’s Word. So that’s how I define expository.

An expositional mindset comes from a conviction. I might be provocative in saying that expository ministry is not limited to the pulpit. Why? Let me ask you a question: Is the Word of God just as powerful between two little old ladies reading the Bible at Starbucks as it is in the pulpit? How you answer that question is foundational. I would argue that the Word of God is just as powerful between two little old ladies reading it at Starbucks as it is in the pulpit.

Has God set some apart to be pastors and preachers? Absolutely. Do we feel the Sunday sermon is paramount in the ministry of the Church? Absolutely. Do we want to see godly men filling pulpits in this country and throughout the world? Absolutely.

But what we also want to say is: “Hearing God’s Word with God’s intent is so great. Do we really only want to have it a half an hour a week on a Sunday, or do we want it all week?” I hope the answer to that question is, “Yes, we want it all the time.”

If expository ministry isn’t just limited to the pulpit, then we’ve got to ask, what does it look like during the week? I would argue that an expositional mindset is having the theological conviction that God’s Word always speaks with a goal of intent, life, and transformation. That does happen in the Sunday sermon, but it also happens in Sunday school. It also happens in a one-to-one Bible meeting. It also happens in small groups. It also happens as you teach your family the Scriptures at dinner. An expositional mindset is the conviction that we want to find as many venues as we can where the Word of God can be prayerfully spoken to other people.

We want to see expository ministry in every single part of the church. We want to see the Word of God and prayer in the driver’s seat in the church. We want to see the Word of God working itself into every ministry of the church. We want to train one another so that we can be expository disciple makers who are in the world with our neighbors, our co-workers, and our family members who are not believers, speaking God’s Word prayerfully into their lives, so that they will become disciples.

KH: How do you see the expositional mindset working itself out practically in churches? How should it work itself out?

SM: First of all I think a helpful thing to do is to read The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne, because that book lays the theological and philosophical groundwork about how all ministry is about what we call “vine work.” “Vine work” is Word-based disciple making. Trellises are the structures of ministry, like buildings and meetings, that enable vine ministry to happen.

We need ministry trellises—we need some kind of a structure to do ministry. There’s nothing wrong with those things, but the trellises exist so that we can do the vine work. We want to see God’s work grow. We want see the nations become disciples of Christ. I think reading that book is very helpful because it’ll either be something new to you or a reminder of what ministry is really all about: making disciples.

The follow-up book, The Vine Project, is very helpful because one push back they received from the first book was, “You guys intentionally didn’t give us your seven steps to grow a bigger and better church.” And Colin and Tony would say, “We don’t have seven steps. We don’t have secrets. We’re just taking you back to the scriptural principles of what ministry is all about.” And people would say, “Well that’s fine, but still I go back, and where do I start? How do I start an expositional ministry in my church?”

The Vine Project works through five phases sharing how to grow a Word-focused and discipleship-oriented church.

Phase One: Sharpen Your Convictions

They call the first phase, “Sharpen Your Convictions.” It’s the why, what, who, when, and where of making disciples. Sharpening your convictions really comes back to asking ourselves questions like: Is my conviction that God’s Word brings life and transformation? Is my conviction that the Word of God needs to be in the driver’s seat of every ministry in our church?

KH: . . . making sure you have a solid foundation on a Biblical understanding of discipleship.

SM: Absolutely. It’s coming back to that foundation and asking, “What is ministry all about?” The only way you’re going to have an expository mindset for all of the ministries in your church and in your life is if you have those convictions – that the Word of God and prayer must be in the driver’s seat, and I want to build all my ministries around the Word of God and prayer. That’s how God works. As we prayerfully depend on God’s Spirit and as we teach His Word, God makes disciples. God grows disciples. God equips people for godly living. God equips people for the work of ministry. We have to sharpen our convictions.


Next time we’ll look at the 4 P’s of Disciple making ministry.

Kevin Halloran

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

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