Regular readers know that I recently retired after spending the past 14 years serving in a judicatory ministry capacity. Nearly every week I was in a different church in our judicatory either to preach or to visit. Prior to that I was the bivocational pastor of a small church in our community for 20 years. Since retirement I have preached a few times, and on those Sundays I haven't preached I've been visiting different churches of various denominations. After 34 years it's interesting to see what churches are in our community.
This past Sunday I visited a church affiliated with Calvary Chapel. Calvary Chapel churches are often known for their verse by verse exposition of Scripture, and this one was no different. The pastor is a local doctor who serves the church as a bivocational pastor.
I have to say that I enjoyed the in-depth study of the text. Although as a pastor I often preached expository messages I had not experienced that very often since leaving pastoral ministry. Most of the churches I visited as a Resource Minister tended towards more topical preaching. While such preaching has its place at times, I do believe that expository preaching will do more to build up the faith of the listeners.
The pastor was working his way through 2 Samuel. Again, it brought back memories of my own pastoral ministry. Each summer I would preach through a book of the Bible or a major section of Scripture such as the Sermon on the Mount. I always enjoyed the preparation that went into that style of preaching. It prevented me from always preaching on my favorite topics and it did not allow me to skip over controversial issues. I had to preach what the text gave me. That's good discipline for any preacher.
It's also good for the congregation. It allows them to see how a particular passage fits into the overall message of the book. It takes them much deeper into the passage than when the pastor preaches a sermon on this text one Sunday and jumps to another text and topic the next.
Our opinions will do little to change lives. Preaching the Word under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit allows that Word to penetrate into the hearts and souls of the listeners. It is then that real change can begin to take place.
If you do not regularly preach through a book of the Bible you may want to prayerfully consider doing so this year. Rather than starting with an entire book you might want to begin with a section of Scripture such as the Sermon on the Mount or the Ten Commandments. Try it and see if it makes a difference in the life of your church and in the lives of the individual members.