4 Ingredients of an Expository Sermon, Pt 1
I have found that there are preachers who like to call their ministries “expository.” But when you hear a sermon, you are left wondering if either you or they misunderstand what expository means.
Here are four essential ingredients to look for when judging an expository sermon…
1. Source of the Content
This is the main ingredient. The bare minimum that can be asked of a sermon pining for the coveted moniker, “expository” is that its primary content come directly from the text and not the preacher’s fertile imagination.
That is why the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy declares firmly:
“We deny that the preacher has any message from God apart from the text of Scripture.”
No sermon can be said to expound the word of God if it is not drawing its content from the word of God!
2. Source of the Structure
The provenance of the sermon’s structure is a hotly discussed ingredient. Does the structure have to emerge from the text itself, or is it sufficient for the content to be drawn from the text, while the structure be artificially imposed by the preacher? So, can I merely get the gist of Jesus’ point that hypocrisy is bad, and then come up with 4 reasons why; or do I need to stick to the 3 or 5 or 4 reasons that Jesus actually mentions in my text?
Professor George Zemek, the Yoda of Greek and Hebrew exegesis, contends as a purist in this regard that the structure should be entirely inductive and therefore emerge from the (original language!) text and be evident to the hearers when they return to the text later. He believes that it is not the function of the outline to be memorable or imperatival, or contain inherent application, but to be grammatically, syntactically reflective of the text. The outline is memorable inherently because the hearer can see it emerge from the text and thus recall it anytime he/she revisits the passage.
Pastor and author, Michael Fabarez, on the other hand avers that if the content is taken from the text, the sermon is expository, and the structure can (and should) be phrased in an imperatival way in order to be of most use to the hearers.
So, every point should be phrased as something you need to do, e.g. 1. Recognize the blah blah, 2. Remember the blah blah, and 3. Repent of your blah blah.
After all, we don’t want to make hearers of the word, but doers. What good is it for one’s outline to be faithful to the text is no one remembers it? Rather imprint the content on their memories with a good outline.”
I believe that a sermon can be expository without the structure necessarily being wrought directly from the original language text. However, the structure is there as a servant to the content. Since the content must be drawn directly from the text, the structure will most often accompany that content quite naturally. But a creative and faithful preacher should not be accused of tampering with the text if he finds an effective structure with which to present the content he has mined from the text.
Tomorrow we’ll discuss the next two essential ingredients, namely the Consecutiveness of the Passages, and the Length of the Text.