There are some people who can take a bunch of balloons, put them together, and make a statue of Stuart, the Minion. Unfortunately, there are also lots of people, a lot of them standing behind pulpits every Sunday, who can take a collection of Scriptures and make them say what ever they want them to say.
How do you avoid the bozos who would use Scripture to separate you from your hard earned money, telling you that you are glorifying God in the process? The primary way is to take steps to see if you church is healthy.
Mark Dever, from Nine Marks (IX Marks) has put together a book that gives a thumbnail sketch of what makes up a healthy church. You can find it here and by clicking on the image below. It’s called “What is a Healthy Church?”
One of the characteristics of a healthy church is expositional preaching.
In the words of Mr. Dever, expositional preaching is
…the kind of preaching that, quite simply, exposes God’s Word. It takes a particular passage of Scripture, explains that passage, and then applies the meaning of the passage to the life of the congregation…A commitment to expositional preaching is a commitment to hear God’s Word.”
Expositional preaching is not reading a verse and then preaching on a topic loosely related to that verse. The preacher, in general, will not use such phrases as “While I was praying last night, God showed me what this verse means.”
It’s not preaching to the congregation on a topic and using biblical texts only to back up his point. The pastor should never simply pile up Scripture in an effort to rebuke someone in the audience.
It is insisting that the point of the biblical text be the point of the sermon using that biblical text.
For example, we will often hear 1 Corinthians 13 preached during a wedding. Counselors will use portions of it to help married couples experiencing difficulties. But if we are going to make the point of the text the point of the sermon, the point of the sermon will have to be having the right attitudes in the use of spiritual gifts. The section, stuck between chapters 12 and 14 has everything to do with the Corinthians and how badly they were relating to each other as believers in exercising their gifts. It has nothing specifically to do with husbands and wives. You might try Ephesians 5:22-25 for that.
If a preacher quotes Malachi 3 and then insists you need to give ten percent to his church, the point of his sermon is not the point of the text. If he tells you that you must shout and dance as a part of worship because Jesus tells us the Son of Man, like the snake in the desert, must be lifted up, the point of his sermon is not the same as the point of the text.
What the preacher says when he says these kinds of things may or may not be true. But he certainly is not speaking that which God wants spoken to the congregation using His word. Instead, he is preaching what HE wants to preach to the people, using God’s Word. And I can say without fear of error that virtually all Pulpit Pimps use God’s Word to say what they want to say, not what God wants said.
You want to escape the pimps? Get to a healthy church. Get to a church that, for starters, engages in expositional preaching. Click on the image below to get an idea of what the functions and activities of a healthy church should be. And I guarantee you, standing when the pastor walks up to the pulpit is not one of those activities.
Oh, and if you want a fairly non-technical description of expositional preaching so you can recognize it when you see it (or at least when your pastor is preparing a sermon in keeping with the general principles) click the image below.