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Peter Adam on Preaching

1. Arguing for Expository Preaching

2. Preaching and Pastoral Ministry

3. Preaching and Biblical Theology

Peter Adam, Principal of Ridley College Melbourne, Australia

Articles now at


  1. Expository preaching isn't expository preaching. Expository preaching is a style of speaking and presentation which is equated as being the same as explaining the meaning of a biblical passage, in order to justify the presentation of the style of speaking and presentation. "We believe in teaching the message of the Bible" runs the rhetoric. Well, thats great. But its all in one samey style isn't it? Why's that then?

    Here's my beef. Why do people rail on about expository preaching in the language of explaining the meaning of a biblical text. If you want to be back in the dark ages, unfettered by the restrictive insights of human learning and cognitive psychology, why don't you just say, 'Let's circle the wagons and learn to speak in a language that will be alien to everyone outside our club?' Nothing wrong with that eh. Ever read 1 Cor 14 I wonder?

    Preachers/Pastors/Evangelists, please have mercy on us, make your sermons more interesting, stop making understanding the bible so dreary, stop using the same applications, read about concentration spans, read about how to use illustrations (video, drama, art, music) and humour to really explain the message of a passage in a way that is more biblical. And stop standing on the top of your old fashioned castle yelling, "We teach the bible" when the bible in your hand doesn't justy the kind of castle that you're standing on.

    This narrowness, this sticking to your established norms and methods of presentation is perhaps the biggest challenge to convincing everyone that explaining the message of a Bible text is the way to really hear God speaking.

    The Interloper

  2. Tom,

    You wanna try this:
    Why Expository

    The dull/samey thing you describe is not what expository preaching need be. You only have to listen to the great living preachers of the last 50 years, John Stott and Dick Lucas to hear, albeit in a posh voice, that there needn't be one style of expository preaching...

    My point is that what we teach should be what the Bible teaches, with all due energy, excitement, trembling... as Piper notes it should be singed with the fires of hell and soaked in the blood of Christ... the goal is to be exulting in the Lord... dull unapplied lazy preaching is not what any of us want... that sait, be gracious to preachers who don't always get it write in content or presentation....

    1 Cor 14 rocks, btw. Bring it on!

  3. yeah, but....

    Piper is brilliant, because of what you said, the fire and the light, but....

    But, Piper is also unique. Some of it is his voice, some of it his character, some of it his learning. I've sat through enough sermons where people have been enamoured with Piper's style, and have decided that it's the way to do things then they bolt that to a theology that so downplays human freedom and cognitive ability - and you have a recepie for a sermon that could send concrete off to sleep.

    I should be gracious, you're right, perhaps I'll stop here.

    The Interloper

  4. Final thought,

    The guy needs to do some better quality argumentation. His first reason reads..."(1) Preaching through the books of the Bible, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, respects and reflects God�s authorship. God did not gives us a book of quotable quotes, nor a dictionary of useful texts, nor an anthology of inspiring ideas. When God caused the Scriptures to be written the medium that he used was that of books of the Bible. If that was good enough for the author it should be good enough for the preacher."

    Fine. But has he ever actually read the gospels. Jesus quotes left right and centre. Paul too. Plus the argument is based on a completely flawed assumption. If I write a book on teaching using play-doh then is it therefore my intention that you do not use play-doh to teach but instead give the children my book to read? Or perhaps explain it sentence by sentence?

    The Interloper

  5. Sure - topical preaching is ok - Piper essentially does it in the sermon i pointed to. And if we go topical then it needs Biblical emphasis and biblical argument - why not use God's arguments and style (both of which are very diverse across genres and styles)...

    However, just because Piper can preach a God-exalting sermon doesn't mean I will do so from topical stuff... so if I'm honest I'd rather use God's arguments in the text than invent my own... particularly early on in preaching.

    Never an excuse for poor preaching. Nor an excuse to dumb-down as if people can't think clearly or hard... we have to aim for excellence... And if I'm honest the best expository preaching seems to trump the best topical... even if much topical does beat much expository.

    If we make explanation of God's word (which is what was done in Nehemiah and also by the apostles) boring then, as Peter Adam observes, that is criminal. How stupid would that be?

  6. nah, i think you're missing the point I'm making. It isn't topical vs. biblical exergesis/explaining. You can't polarise the discussion like that.

    That is exactly what I am reacting to. It's a false division. You don't have topical on one side and then bible on the other, and work out some kind of truce where you do a bit of both.

    What I am saying is that Biblical exergesis, means a style as well as the 'letting the bible speak for itself'. When people say, 'We should use the approach of Biblical exergesis' they want a particular style as well as teaching from the passage. You have the language of 'rightly handling the word' which often tends to mean 'this is the way we preach' rather than what that specific bit of scripture means. I want to question that style, painting it in terms of topical vs. biblical is missing the point.


  7. sorry, i'm tired!

    i get you. i think your experience is very narrow if you think people only mean one style by expository preaching (exegesis isn't preaching its the preparation)....

    handling the text accurately shouldn't affect the style of presentation only the content and the gravity/seriousness of it. poor presentation is not excused by accurate content... neither is an absence of application acceptable on any grounds.

    further, rightly handling the word is more about the preacher not being a gossip and careless chatterer than it is about the technicalities and skill of exegesis.

    enjoying our conversation.

  8. Ask 5 people what style of preaching they would expect from a biblical exegesis then....

    Also enjoying convo :)


  9. i know what you're getting at, but i it depends who u ask... the conservative evangelical church is bigger than you think... i only have to sit through a term of talks at Reading CU to see that...

    As we go through Romans this term it'll be diversity of style throughout.... from Marcus Honeysett last week who preached the point but not in a way you're thinking of, to Richard Cunningham tonight who has a very unique style... to John Ris who isn't like either of them.. I've not heard Ant Adams... then its Sean Green who is different to Pete Lowman... who speaks differently to me... or to Mike Kendall... and then its debutant Dave Hooper, and its never fair to judge someone on their first talk.

    I know where you're going with this but I just don't think your point stands.

  10. It does stand. For one thing the argument from variety at Reading is irrelevant. And if you asked people whether or not the speakers had done a solid 'biblical exegesis' you would find that the ones who did the line by line style approach would be perceived as the more solid biblical exergetes. You only have to have talked to people after a few different kinds of talks to see this in motion. I'm not doing anything more than describing the way that we all think.

    How many women preachers have you heard in the last 3 months?


  11. i think the average person doesn't have a definition of good preaching that is based on technicality and style, but more on whether something struck them particularly...

    And now you're changing subject... some, but then I also don't know how many male preacher's I've heard in the last three months either.


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