9Marks receives daily phone calls and emails from local church pastors asking for advice. Do you know how many questions we receive about preaching? None.
Questions about church membership? Lots. Questions about implementing church discipline? Plenty. About transitioning to a plural elder-led model? Quite a few. But preaching? Never.
Sure enough, the Pulpit & Pew research project asked 1,231 solo and senior pastors to rank what they did best among their various duties. In every category of denominational tradition, congregation size, years in the ministry, and gender, the top two answers were (i) preaching and (ii) teaching people about the faith. (Evangelism and administration were ranked last.) Pastors of every persuasion and duration are most confident about their preaching (J. Carroll, God’s Potters, 115).
Yet may I propose—as gingerly as I can—that 9Marks exists because these 1,231 pastors and those whom they statistically represent do not preach as they should?
We call expositional preaching the first mark in a healthy church because we believe if you get that right, the other marks follow. You’ll hear this theme surface again and again in this issue’s articles. Mike Gilbart-Smith leads the way by comparing what he calls “authoritative” preaching to recent proposals for “conversational” preaching. Ajith Fernando, Al Mohler, Kevin Smith, and Derek Thomas offer their two cents on that question. Mark Driscoll takes on the proposal for narrative preaching, while former Trinity preaching prof Mike Bullmore presents a defense for expositional preaching. And postmodernism, the cause of so much hand-wringing these days about what “should” happen the “pulpit,” is re-considered by “Carl Trueman.”
Yet expositional preaching does not qualify as faithful simply because it exposes the biblical text; it must also demonstrate how the text—rightly exposed—remains relevant to one’s hearers today. That means wisely applying the sermon to our hearers. Dee Reju thoughtfully asks why so many Christians don’t look to the Scriptures for life and guidance. Israel Haas exhorts younger preachers to consider the middle aged and elderly, while Aaron Menikoff and Mark Dever exhort all preachers to consider several categories of hearers.
Finally, 9Marks wanted to make sure you were familiar with several excellent resources on preaching and biblically theology, which is why we have included four book reviews by two very careful brothers.