The following excerpt is taken from chapter 4 of our recently released book, Small Church, Excellent Ministry: A Guidebook for Pastors. This chapter was written by Dr. Bo Rice.
When it comes to weekly preparation, some of the wisest counsel I received early in my ministry is to preach through books of the Bible. As Vines and Shaddix state, “Numerous benefits surface when the truth of God’s Word is exposed, especially through the systematic preaching of a Bible book.” Biblical literacy continues to wane in the United States. This increase in biblical literacy has caused the task of making disciples more difficult in the local church. Pastors are faced with preaching to congregations who are less likely to have any understanding of some of the most basic biblical stories and concepts. Vines and Shaddix state that “this scenario leaves the preacher with two options: either resign to the the generation by minimizing the role of the Bible in his preaching or determine to change the generation by systematically teaching the Scriptures. Systematic exposition, especially, enhances knowledge of the Bible.” A thorough exegetical study and preaching through books of the Bible help preachers to become better communicators of biblical truth and the congregation to become more knowledgeable students of the Word.
A second benefit to preaching through books of the Bible is that it holds the preacher accountable. The preacher is held accountable for preaching what the Bible says and not what he wants to say. Preachers who approach the sermon with serious study know that they speak from the authority of the Scripture. Staying true to expositional delivery ensures that the preacher is conveying the intended truth of every text and not from the preacher’s views or opinions. Also, biblical exposition holds the preacher accountable to work diligently. It is laborious work to prepare sermons each week that hold true to the intended meaning of each text in succession. Finally, the pastor is held accountable through expositional preaching by dealing with texts that would be easy to skip over. Systematic exposition forces the pastor to faithfully deal with the full counsel of God’s Word.
A third benefit to preaching through books of the Bible is relieving the pastor from worrying about what to preach. Many pastors who do not preach through books of the Bible report feelings of anxiety in finding the perfect text each week. These pastors often take the “Barber Shop” approach to preaching—listening to the latest talk, concerns, and often gossip in the community, and then finding a text that may or may not address the situation. If the preacher will commit to faithful, systematic exposition, then he knows exactly what text he will be preaching every Monday he begins his study and preparation.
A fourth benefit to systematic exposition is appetite development in the congregation. Vines and Shaddix state, “Systematic exposition gives people an appetite for the Word that prompts them to go home and search the Scriptures for themselves.” Systematic exposition encourages the congregation to become better students and even teachers of the Word. This, in turn, leads to further spiritual maturity for the pastor and the congregation.
Finally, there are practical benefits to systematic exposition. This type of preaching helps the pastor plan his preaching schedule for greater periods of time. Also, understanding the background to each text is much easier when you are systematically preaching through the same book each week. There is very little need to do much background study each week when you already put that time in at the beginning of your study of a particular book. This approach will save you a great deal of time as you prepare week after week.
Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix, Power in the Pulpit (Chicago: Moody, 1999), 32.