How Sunday School Can Help Your Preaching
If you are an expositional preacher, a topically-driven adult Sunday school program can significantly help your preaching ministry. How?
SUNDAY SCHOOL FREES UP TIME FOR MORE EXPOSITION
First, Sunday school frees up time for exposition. 9Marks has always maintained that preaching in a local church should be primarily expositional—preaching in which the main point of the passage is the main point of the sermon.
Yet there are many topics that a responsible pastor feels he should explore in more detail with his church than the regular course of expositional preaching allows. For example, issues of gender are especially important for Christians to think about today. Gender issues will naturally come up in sermon application from time to time as you faithfully preach through the Scriptures. And yet only rarely will you preach through a passage where gender-related issues are the main focus. The same would apply to parenting. It’s an important topic that you will inevitably hit on occasionally in sermon application, but will rarely deal with comprehensively.
As a result, most pastors occasionally preach topically in order to address subjects like these. Yet you cannot afford to preach topically very often or you will lose the power of a primarily expositional preaching ministry.
How can you equip your flock with the topical teaching they need without compromising your approach to preaching? One way to do this is to introduce a forum in your weekly schedule devoted to Scripture-centered, topical teaching. In other words, adult Sunday School.
SUNDAY SCHOOL STRENGTHENS YOUR ABILITY TO APPLY THE WORD
A topically-driven Sunday school program can also help your expositional preaching by growing your ability to draw insightful application in sermons.
One of the great challenges in preaching is to generate specific, textually faithful application week after week. This is a challenge across two dimensions. First, depth of insight. Your preaching should consistently help your congregation discover ways to apply the text that they hadn’t fully appreciated before.
A second challenge is breadth of application. Your application should relate to the full range of your congregation’s diverse life experiences. Younger preachers in particular struggle to expand sermon application beyond what they themselves have experienced.
Sunday school can help improve your application in both of these areas.
1. Depth of Insight
Rather than thinking through a particular topic as one of many application points in your regular sermon preparation, try teaching on it exclusively for multiple weeks in a row as part of a Sunday school class. As you search out all that Scripture brings to bear on that particular topic, you will almost certainly see more than you have before. Then, when you are preaching, the experience of having worked through a topic comprehensively helps you to be more pointed and concise in your applications. In other words, Sunday school makes you a better systematic theologian, which in turn makes you a better applier of God’s Word.
2. Breadth of Insight
One good way to grow in breadth of insight in sermon application is to allow other men to teach Sunday school classes. As you do, not only will you help these men grow into better teachers (a key qualification for being an elder), but they will bring to bear their own life experiences as well as those they have helped over the years.
Think about how much better your sermon applications on parenting could be if you spent thirteen weeks listening to a grandfather of seven teach on parenting—especially if your own children are still quite young. As different men in the church lean on their different perspectives in teaching Sunday school, you will grow in your ability to apply God’s Word to a wider range of people in your congregation.