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Pastors preach in an image-based, postmodern, pragmatic, and success-oriented culture. Without even commenting on whether or not it is attainable, a belief in Truth—inerrant, sufficient, potent and exclusive Truth—is counter-cultural. Consequently, pastors have a profound lack of confidence in God’s Word and need to be convinced that expositional preaching 1) is what God is asking of them, and 2) that it brings about the radical gospel growth and maturation promised in the Word.

The Workshops pose a unique challenge both to instructors and participants. The very nature of these Workshops assumes that expositional preaching can be taught and learned. We assume that an explicatory method of preaching is an underlying and constant set of ideas (and rightly so, given its biblical foundation). In the Bible’s timelessness, this set of ideas must also be transferable. We can implement this practice to a greater or lesser extent, and we can pass it along to the next generation. In some ways, this transferability rings counter-intuitive to the lore surrounding great expositional preachers. Can we implement the styles of Spurgeon or the methods of Lloyd-Jones? Can we adequately follow in the tradition of the great Charles Simeon? Can we even approximate the greatness of Dick Lucas or John Stott? Common wisdom would suggest that it is not possible to replicate their uncommon charisma in the pulpit or extraordinary understanding in study. At the same time, we reject the notion that their grasp of exposition is necessarily unique. In other words, we do not advocate the mimicry of personae, but we firmly believe that there is some element to their handling of Scripture, an aspect of their expositional minds, that is learnable and transferable from one generation to the next.

The mission of the Workshops is threefold. First, for expositional preaching to take hold of a preacher and subsequently edify and evangelize his congregation, he must be confident in applying himself to the task. We must convince the pastor that the heart of pastoral ministry is the proclamation of the Word. Second, as he is convinced, he must also grow in his confidence to practice expositional preaching. We must encourage him in his own life-long ministry by ministering to him from the Word. Finally, as he is encouraged, he must also be given the tools to apply specific principles such that he both understands and is equipped for true expositional preaching. We must show him how to rightly handle the Word of God.

We must offer something that preachers will value—the promise of mastering a book or passage, a number of sermon outlines, a set of principles that will assist him in handling the Word of God rightly­. Our process can be explained in three activities.

1. Convince him that it must be done.
Using the Scriptures, show men that God’s view of preaching has at its heart the proclamation of the word. The ministry of the new covenant is proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord. This takes hard work. It does not guarantee numerical growth or popularity. The work of God in the lives of His people takes place through His Word and by His Spirit. This brings about both justification and sanctification. Practically:

  • We must expose the temptations pastors face.
  • We can demonstrate a particular understanding of word ministry: a) both very broad and through many contexts, different personal styles (not a formula), and b) with a very narrow understanding (exposition not theological preaching).

We must show that the Spirit works through the Word, God reveals Christ through the Word, and that people grow in faith through the Word.

2. Encourage him that it can be done.
The word encourage can have several meanings. In our environment, encouragement to the preacher in the sense of building confidence in the work of exposition is actually distinct from encouragement in the sense of building a relational community through mutual study of the Word. Nevertheless, we must be given to encouraging in both of these ways, as they are intimately tied together. Confidence, when it actually comes time to execute, is fundamentally undergirded on the condition of the preacher’s heart. In other words, a preacher can be technically sufficient and wholeheartedly committed to the concept of exposition, and yet struggle with sin and the either the pride or despair of seclusion. In those moments of moral lapse or personal isolation, he will either proceed with a vain, unwarranted self-assurance or his confidence will be shaken. Neither is tolerable.

Encouragement in the reality of preaching:

  • Recognize that reorientation comes with a cost.
  • Honor those who are committed to Word ministry.
  • Recognize that preaching is more caught than taught.
  • Increase confidence that these words are God’s words.
  • Model exposition.
  • It is not merely for building self-confidence, but requires truthful feedback.
  • Prepare them to go out and preach that book to their own congregation.

Encouragement to the preacher’s own soul:

  • Encourage accountability.

Facilitate genuine fellowship, active community, and sufficient time for prayer.

3. Show him how it is done.
Showing the participant how to do exposition can be thought of as three kinds of preparation:

  • The preparation of the preacher includes instilling convictions about: a) establishing that the text is sovereign, b) speaking God’s words prayerfully, c) speaking God’s words with love, and d) applying the text first to oneself.
  • Preparation in the text requires: a) finding authorial intent, b) using controls (exegetical and theological), c) doing the hard work of observation, d) using exercises, e) finding biblical connections, and f) exposing wrong approaches.
  • Preparation of the sermon requires a) finding the theme/aim/outline, b) making the emphasis of the text the point of the sermon, and c) clarity.

The fundamental unit of instruction at the Workshop is called an Instructional Session. The Expositions demonstrate and illustrate the principles conveyed in instructional sessions. The Small Group Sessions reinforce the instructions and provide an occasion to practice. And so, while the Workshops only work when all three pieces are in play, the instructional session affords us the clearest, most explicit opportunity to pass along the principles of exposition. Understanding our methodology for these instructional sessions and the small groups is essential:

 The Value of the Socratic Method
In Plato’s dialogues, the Socratic method, (or debate or cross-examination), is a dialectic method of inquiry largely applied to the examination of key moral concepts. It is used by teachers to foster as much active learning as possible. In other words, we should not immediately answer the questions we raise, or we will lose an opportunity to help participants discover the answers on their own. We want participants to engage in the independent critical thinking that leads to a deeper understanding of the principles. We can do this by:

  • Using questions to get the participants to learn the material through their own discovery. In so doing, they will develop their own emotional ownership to the principle.
  • Using questions to give the participants time to catch you.
  • Spreading the questions around.

A weakness of the Socratic Method is that it can make the Instructor the guru instead of pointing participants directly to the text. Be careful and work hard to keep the participants in the Scriptures and your own approach very accessible. Never justify your conclusions with references to work that you have done or secondary works that you have read and that they have not seen (e.g., commentaries). Likewise, you will want to be careful if and how you reference original languages in most contexts.