I grew up in Appalachia. Southeastern Kentucky. Corbin, home to Knox, Whitley, and Laurel counties. Home of the first KFC.
It was a blessing to come from an area where, among churches, there was a love for Jesus, passion for evangelism, and high view of the Word of God. Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I sat under the preaching of men who believed in expositional preaching.
They would allow the text to guide the sermon week after week. While I am certain they did not always follow this paradigm, a “thus saith the Lord” (Yes, we were KJV.) from the sermon was a regular expectation. It was under such ministry that I was saved and called into vocational ministry.
The model set before me was “preach the word” (2 Tim 4:2). If “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable,” (2 Tim 3:16, ESV), then why preach anything else? Growing up in the hills, I was taught: You put gasoline in your car, not water or Pepsi (We were non-Coke town too.); you brushed your teeth with a toothbrush, not a stick or a fork; and if you preached, then you preached the Bible. There was no other preaching; it was foolish to try to do otherwise.
You can imagine my surprise when arriving at seminary and hearing professors give an apologia for expository preaching. Pastors across the country–I was told–had neglected preaching the Scriptures.
Thankfully, not mine.
You put gasoline in your car. You brushed your teeth with a toothbrush. And, if you preached, you preached the Word. There was nothing else to preach. It was foolish to try to do otherwise.
I was taught that closely connected to the emphasis on expositional preaching was the need for messages to be Christocentric (One of my favorite preaching books is Chapell’s Christ-Centered Preaching.) While all preaching was to point to Christ, the preacher had to be faithful with the text. Some professors and preachers, with hearts in the right place, advocated a poor hermeneutic for the sake of making a beeline to the cross (Thabiti Anyabwile does an excellent job voicing some of my concerns with how we handle the text.). Despite possible interpretative problems, a Christocentric approach was strongly advocated.
I am thankful my ministers and models emphasized this approach to preaching. Those preachers and professors, over the past three decades, made a difference among a younger generation of ministers. There is now a growing passion for expositional preaching–at least in my circles–coupled with a Christocentric approach while handling the Word rightly.
However, something has been missing. From the foothills of the Appalachians, to the contemporary pulpits, to the academic classrooms, we missed it along the way. We failed to recognize the mission of God in the Word.
All preaching should be text driven. But we would not have any text to preach if it had not been for the mission of God. Do our church members know this?
All preaching should point to Christ. But there is no cross without the mission of God. Do our church members know this?
How are we able to preach anything about Christ and fail to reference God’s mission and our place and purpose in salvation history?
His mission involved saving us by His Spirit and now involves sending us with His Spirit.
The next time we make a beeline to the cross, we need to make certain along the way we point out the mission too. This mission echoes throughout the Bible, sometimes easier to find than the cross. This mission involves us. Always, always bring attention to it. Many church members will miss it. They will assume the message is only about themselves and Jesus.
I’ll close with an excellent quote from Anyabwile, with my addendum: “So, to preach the gospel well, we need to do good text work. And we need to make sure that the points of the text become pointers to the Christ.” . . . and pointers to God’s mission.
The five billion remain.