Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Expository preaching?

Expository preaching has as its goal the exposition of the Scriptures, but it also has as its goal the exposition of the human heart. Surely, an important function of preaching is to 'expose' what is going within me so that the Word can address it. It may well be that this is something we are not generally very good at and thus our preaching can have an abstract and remote feel to it. We hurl commands and promises at people, but they don't hit so well because we haven't really aimed at anything.

What do I mean by this? I guess there is a difference between being told that you are a sinner and being challenged about it, and having someone expose your heart and your sin to you so that you feel a conviction that you are a sinner. Expository preaching, if it is to be truly effective, must expose the human heart and break down my 'defences against God'. It must show me the lies and subtle delusions I cherish, and the sin underneath the sin in my life. It must expose my legalism so that I can see it myself. In this sense, preaching has an uncovering (i.e. revelatory) function - it opens me up to the Word of God even as it applies it into my life. I must feel my sin if I am to feel the comforts of grace. CS Lewis says this: "Instead of telling us a thing is 'terrible', describe is so that we'll be terrified. Don't say 'it was a delight', make us say 'delightful' when we've read the description."

What's the best way of doing this? Well, probably knowing my own sin and legalism is a good start. Knowing my own heart and how it works is necessary for me to help people understand their own hearts - and it also saves me from pride and hypocrisy. But knowing people pastorally is vital if I am to do this well. All those ordinary and deep conversations I have with people are preparation for preaching. As I know people better and their hearts I will preach much better into their lives. I must listen in otder to speak.