Why Preach Expositionally?: To See Lives Changed for the Glory of God

I have already offered six reasons for why we should preach expositionally (hereherehereherehere, and here.). I’d like to add one final reason.

Preachers should preach expository sermons because changed lives for the glory of God is always the goal for which we strive, and it is foolish to think we can actually impact the lives of our hearers by any other means than faithful and compelling exposition. The Word must be preached faithfully, but it also must be preached well. I believe it is completely unacceptable, if not a sin of the most serious sort, to preach the Word of God in a boring and unattractive fashion. Engaging exposition is the surest path for glorifying God and edifying believers.

I agree with Charles Koller who says, “It is more important clumsily to have something to say than cleverly to say nothing.”[1] However, in Ecclesiastes 12:9-10 Solomon says, “…the Preacher also taught the people knowledge; and he pondered, searched out and arranged many proverbs. The Preacher sought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly.”

In the multi-media, entertainment saturated culture in which we live, I repeatedly tell my students, “What you say is more important than how you say it, but how you say it has never been more important.” Haddon Robinson, quoting a Russian proverb says, “It is the same with men as with donkeys; whoever would hold them fast must get a very good grip on their ears.”[2] Restricting ourselves to the American context, I would proffer several observations concerning attractive and engaging exposition that keeps a “wise eye” on the goal of seeing true transformation in the audience.

Engaging Exposition

First, do not neglect the crucial importance of the introduction. You have 3-5 minutes to win the attention of your audience or lose their interest. More sermons fail here than probably anywhere else. Bryan Chapell informs us that “today’s communication researchers say that audiences generally decide within the first 30 seconds of a presentation whether they are interested in what a speaker will say. This modern reality underscores the importance of gaining attention in the opening moments of a sermon…”[3]

Second, we cannot improve on the 3 canons of Aristotle’s Rhetoric. In the communication event we must weave together in an attractive tapestry of logos (what), ethos (who), and pathos (how). Content is essential, credibility is crucial, and delivery is of no small importance. Aristotle reminds us, “It is not enough to know what to say—one must know how to say it.”

Third, be relevant. The wise preacher will exegete both the scriptures and the culture. He understands that he must know each equally well. John Calvin explains, “What advantage would there be if we were to stay here half a day and I were to expound half a book without considering you or your profit and edification?… We must take into consideration those persons to whom the teaching is addressed….”[4]

Fourth, realize that bad preaching will sap the life of the church. It will kill its spirit, dry up its fruit, and eventually empty its buildings. If we would dare be honest we must say bad preaching is no preaching. It is preaching not worthy of the name.

Walt Kaiser has made this point powerfully, and I close with his sobering words:

It is no secret that Christ’s Church is not at all in good health in many places of the world. She has been languishing because she has been fed, as the current line has it, “junk food;” all kinds of artificial preservatives and all sorts of unnatural substitutes have been served up to her. As a result, theological and Biblical malnutrition has afflicted the very generation that has taken such giant steps to make sure its physical health is not damaged by using foods or products that are carcinogenic or otherwise harmful to their bodies. Simultaneously, a worldwide spiritual famine resulting from the absence of any genuine publication of the Word of God continues to run wild and almost unabated in most quarters of the Church.[5]


(A version of this post previously appeared on

[1] Charles Koller, Expository Preaching Without Notes, 42-43.

[2] Robinson, Biblical Preaching (1980), 160.

[3] Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching, 229.

[4] Quoted in Peter Adam, Speaking God’s Word, 132-133.

[5] Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Toward an Exegetical Theology (1981), 7-8.