1) Is expository preaching really sufficient?
In the church contexts in which I grew up, asking this question amounts to heresy. I think I understand and can sympathize with the arguments for it. John MacArthur, one of it's most famous proponents, answers a question in regard to why he has has remained committed to expository preaching:
Well first, because it is a biblical mandate. It doesn’t fluctuate with culture, with expectations, with times or seasons. Expository preaching is the best way to preach the Bible. If every word of God is pure, if every word of God is true, then every word needs to be dealt with. And expository preaching is only way you actually come to grips with every word in the Scriptures.
Secondly, expository preaching familiarizes people with the Scripture itself instead of simply giving them a speech, as true and as reflective of biblical teaching as that speech may be. With expository preaching, people become familiar with the Scripture. They can go back to the passages that have been addressed, and they can be reminded by the text itself of what it means. So you give people the Word of God in a way that has long-term impact, because it makes them familiar with Scripture.
Thirdly, it makes the authority unequivocal, and that authority is the Scripture. That’s very clear no matter how powerful or gifted the preacher might be. In consistent, expository preaching, the people always know what the authority is. It’s not about homiletics. It’s not about personal viewpoints and insights. It’s about relentlessly affirming the true authority of Scripture, which is the most critical thing that anybody can ever learn. It isn’t about, “Wasn’t that a great sermon?” It isn’t about, “Wasn’t that a great outline? Wasn’t that clever?” It’s always about, “What did the Word of God say?” And that makes it truly authoritative, because the Word is from God. No other preaching paradigm does this.
I respect John MacArthur, even though I may complain about him from time to time, because I think he really does try to be a faithful minister of the Word of God. I'm becoming more and more convinced, however, that expository preaching is not enough. I've been getting the distinct impression that people who sit exclusively under expository sermons have a very difficult time with synthesis and in understanding the meta-narrative of Scripture. This approach tends to chop the Bible up into pericopes, or in some cases smaller than that, which the preacher can preach as a unit. It fails, however to put it all together. Texts, even pericopes are meaningless outside of their context within the larger argument of the book at hand or even the whole of Scripture. I also think exclusive expository preaching tends to weaken people's ability to think theologically, but I won't go into that for now. I also feel as if the vast majority of Christians have no concept of our historical-theological context. Again, not now. I may post on this at some later time. I'm not sure I agree with any of Johnny Mac's above points, but I do, at least, respect them and I think I understand where he's coming from.
What do you think?
2) & 3) Do we tell people "what" too much? Do we tell them "how" enough?
We tell people to read their Bibles, but do people really know how? We tell people to share the gospel but are they really equipped to do so? We tell parents to raise their children for the Lord, but do they even have a clue what that means or how to go about it? We tell the laity that being a Christian on Sunday is not enough, but do we help them understand what it means to be a Christian in their workplace, in their home, in school?
4) We tell people that they need to use their spiritual gifts and/or contribute to the church's ministry, but how well do we facilitate this? I get the feeling that a lot of people would be willing to serve in some capacity but aren't sure how or feel like they aren't "good enough Christians." I've run into this attitude among mature Christians that certain people aren't really "qualified" to be involved in the church's ministry because they aren't mature enough spiritually. Although it is certainly true that some level of spiritual maturity is needed for certain roles, I have found that people often grow in spades when they become involved within their church's ministry. If they feel like they aren't good enough yet, they won't become involved, however.
5) Have we become too soft on our own sins and too hard on the sins of others? 99% of all church discipline that I've seen or heard of has been in regards to sexual sin. Is this appropriate? Is this the only sin Christians struggle with that can ever be confronted? What about greed? Or idolatry (depending upon how you define this)? How about not loving your wife? I'm not trying to be funny, it just seems as if we've singled out a certain sin area because it's easier to quantify, more "black and white" if you will. But if we single out this sin I'm afraid it's far too easy to become self-righteous if you've never committed adultery. I also feel like the way church discipline is applied is rather unfair to women, but I won't go into that right now.
5) How confidently should we preach difficult passages or theological concepts?
6) How guilty are we of syncretism? Is singing patriotic american songs idolatrous? I think so. Have we put our concept of "family" in too high a place (see Jesus' statements about the family...)? Have we become too republican? Have we idolized a culture in which we were comfortable instead of learning how to live in the culture in which we find ourselves?
7) Have we been tickling people's ears because we don't want to sound judgmental or legalistic?
Tackle or respond to whichever ones you feel like.
I'll have a Baptist Distinctive post up soon.