Plus: The Danger Ahead

Haddon Robinson on the precarious future of evangelical preaching.

What is your definition of expository preaching?

It's the unfolding of the text of Scripture so that one can see the meaning of the text and then see how it relates to people's lives. It requires the preacher to grapple with the historical, grammatical, and cultural setting of the text and to rely on the Holy Spirit's guidance.

Wouldn't most preachers say they are expositors?

Few preachers today actually let the Bible direct their preaching. And it's been that way throughout church history. It's hard to make an argument for expository preaching based on the history of the church. Most of the time, when people talk about expository preaching, it's a synonym for orthodox preaching. Spurgeon, for example, preached great sermons, but he was not an expositor. It's usually hard to see how he got that sermon from that text. But he was guided by a great theology—a Reformed theology with an evangelistic thrust—and, as a result, he was a powerful preacher, just not an expositor.

As a teacher of preachers, what concerns you most about the future of preaching?

I'm amazed at how many sermon services there are. I think a disturbing number of preachers use other people's material just straight on, Sunday after Sunday. They are not preparing their own sermons.

Isn't it understood that preachers borrow from preachers?

I think it's a danger. In the last year, I've been contacted by about six different churches that have discovered that their pastor was, in their words, stealing sermons—and in some cases whole sermon series. I think part of what's going on is that there are preachers out there who have never learned to study. They didn't learn in seminary, and so when they get out there in churches, they are really in a jam, because they don't know ...

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