Expository preaching is a style of preaching where the pastor explains or interprets a passage of the Bible. Usually, it is done as part of a series, so that an entire, larger section of the Bible is explained over the course of several sermons. Often, a Church will take as much as a half of a year or a year (or more) for this series of sermons. The pastor will use other Bible verses to support the interpretation of the primary passage.

A lot of people will read that and think, "so what?", so the pastor needs to preach the Bible? Isn't that what "preaching" is?

To explain, I'll present some alternative types of sermons for comparison.

The clearest alternative is called "topical" preaching. Each week, the pastor picks a different topic or picks the next sub-topic from a series. The topics use verses from around the Bible for support, so the preaching is still grounded and "Biblical". However, this reverses the preaching style. The topic determines which verses are chosen, rather than the verses choosing the topic. Also, the actual presentation is different because the purpose of the verses is to support the topic rather than be explained.

My pastor also occasionally uses a combination of the two called "expositopical" preaching where he chooses a topic or theme, chooses a primary passage, and then explains the primary passage in the same manner as the expository style of preaching.

The importance of expository preaching is that it establishes a base for the congregation to understand and interpret future sermons. By preaching through a section of the Bible in sequence and using it to determine topics will force a pastor to go over verses that they wouldn't normally use. This gives the congregation a more complete understanding of the Bible and better equips them to discuss and criticize future sermons. Remember, with topical preaching, the pastor chooses all of his verses. With expository preaching, he has to be accountable to all of the verses he has preached on before.

By actually explaining some of the passages, the the pastor also tends to explain the full meaning of the verse rather than just how it supports their argument. Sometimes, they also give alternative explanations of the verse. Those are probably some reasons why my pastor prefers his "expositopical" sermons rather than doing the normal topical style, though most of his sermons are fully expository. The expositopical sermons are saved for holidays and special dates.

Because the most important reason to use expository preaching is the foundation of Biblical knowledge in the Church, pastors can occasionally preach other types of sermons and still hold to the spirit of expository preaching.

I have visited very good Churches with topical preaching all the time. On the other hand, I have had friends who have come out of other topical Churches and are more adamant about this than I am. Its not that you cannot preach a good topical sermon. Rather, I think it will be more obvious to the congregation with expository preaching that their pastor's sermons are inconsistent or heretical and the congregation will leave or correct the situation.

I don't think that this is commanded anywhere in the Bible, so this is more like a "best practices" or "lessons learned" standard than required.

Tags: bible, church, expositopical, expository, pastor, preaching, sermon, study, topical

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Replies to This Discussion

I think the lectionary is a set of sermons for certain dates for the local Catholic priest to present that week?

At my Church, the pastor is solely responsible for the sermon, unless there is a guest speaker. He usually starts preparing that week and its preparation takes the majority of his time, though he also spends time reading non-sermon material, visiting the sick, in personal devotions, and in miscellaneous duties.

In addition to including Bible verses he will also include relevant passages from other theological leaders' books and sermons.

There is a disturbing trend happening in some preaching now though. Pastors are "buying" complete sermons online so that they just have to deliver them. All of the jokes, analysis, and everything are pre-prepared. While I think that the quality of teaching is going to suffer without the pastor's personal investment in them, the real problem is that pastor's usually don't tell their congregations that they are doing this.

I have heard stories of people who went to two different Churches on a vacation on different Sundays and heard the same sermon, with the same jokes, word for word.

I think that this is at least potentially different from the lectionary though, because the congregation is familiar with the lectionary and the priest probably does a better job of reviewing the material.
Interesting. The reading is definitely selected in the expository preaching style. I wouldn't call the Homilies expository though because there is no explanation.

Is there any preaching at Mass? How does it work?
To get the videos to show up here, I use the embed feature of Youtube videos and paste it directly into the comment box.

For some reason, sound isn't working on my computer at the moment. I'll check the video out later.

I'm used to "homilies" being short quotes that moms say, like "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush", so I think I got confused.
I finally watched through it. The sermon I watched was "Human Dignity and the Image of God" parts 1 and 2.

It is obvious that he is mature and studies his material well. I can see why you like him.

I wouldn't really call it expository preaching though. I had a very difficult time figuring out which passages he was speaking on which may be making me biased. I am definitely used to pastors expositing a single passage. I might have picked a bad example as well. He talks about the main focus of a couple of passages but he never goes through the passage to show how it supports his conclusions.

He talked about abortion and marriage and how they relate to God's image. I'm sure that my pastor has made similar tangents. That is ok. But those discussions are a topical foundation, not a textual one. After hearing that sermon, you may understand those issues better, but not necessarily the passage.

Here are the sermons from my Church:
The pastor is Curt Heffelfinger. You'll notice that a lot of the sermons are from the Gospel of John, but sometimes he does something else too. I'll try and pick out some specific ones later on.
I think I was a little too harsh here.

His sermon is "expositing" the meaning of the passage as a whole, so you will still get some of the meaning of the passage. For most expository preaching, the sermon will break up the passage into pieces and exposit them relative to the thesis of the sermon. However, the smallest part from one Church's sermon will be another the largest part from another Church's sermon.
My church uses a lectionary also like Ingrid's does. I would agree using some form of expository preaching is best. I find some people tend to cherry pick scripture with out understanding the context and using a form of expository would help alleviate that bad practice. I'm not fond the idea of a preacher relying solely on bought sermons. There is nothing wrong with reading another persons sermons as long, as you pointed out, you don't take credit for it or try to pass it off as your own. There are times when a pastor/priest may not have had time to prepare a sermon and it would be best to just read one that some one else wrote then to just "wing it".
A more important case is when a pastor is on vacation and needs someone else to fill the pulpit. While a lot of pastors can have other local pastors or pastors in training help out, sometimes that isn't possible, especially in rural areas.

I have known several pastors who have trusted sermons with very specific directions to lay people in the Church to deliver when they aren't there. If they had to "buy" a sermon because they didn't have time to prepare one for those weeks, I would consider that fine, as long as the main pastor reviewed it for doctrinal integrity.

Similarly, if a pastor is just starting out and is still in need of training in an area which badly needs more churches, I wouldn't mind them using other pastors sermons or buying them.

I think the worst use is when a learned pastor gets overwhelmed and doesn't take the time to study the Bible themselves. That pastor is not doing the job he was hired for and needs to hand some duties to other members of his congregation, probably his elders.
Do people really go to Church every day? Is Sunday Mass more significant?
In addition to bible studies and sermons, we are encouraged to read through the Bible once a year, a little bit each day. I have done that since the late 90s almost every year. That is a big help in noticing books I would otherwise ignore.

The actual preaching tends to spend between a half a year and 2 years on a section. We have been going through the Gospel of John for I think our 2nd year and are somewhere around chapter 7. Sermons focus on a few paragraphs and the same section may get several Sundays of attention. We went through 1st Samuel a lot quicker because the material covered life stories rather than teaching.

My Church tends to go through the material a lot slower than other Churches, I think. The congregation already has a solid understanding of our core doctrines and the Bible in general, so we don't need to be in a hurry to cover everything.

While I don't think we follow a traditional liturgy, we do have readings every Sunday from our confession and catechism.
Hmm I'm not sure what length it is, I've seen 1,2, and 3 year ones. I'm Lutheran (LCMS to be specific) so yeah it's a traditional liturgy though it's up to each congregation to figure out how they want the service to be like though the vast majority is very similar. I'm a big supporter of a liturgical divine service.


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