If preaching is so important in the life of a church, we should set high standards for the preaching in our own church. I’ve heard some of my friends elevate certain sermon styles over others and criticize people for preaching in a way they do not like. Notice that this has nothing to do with faithful preaching; this involves preaching preferences.
The requirement of faithful preaching is expository, not stylistic. In fact, different styles of preaching are useful as well as expository; that is, they can explain the Bible using different methods of communication. Let’s look at three styles of expositional preaching: verse-by-verse, narrative, and topical.
1. Verse-by-verse. This type of preaching takes a macro-angle approach to the text, seeking to camp out on a single verse (or verses) and discover the meaning of the verse(s) before making an application. This type of preaching is easily identified because the preacher usually moves through a book of the Bible from start to finish in short increments—usually a verse or two at one time. The sermon is developed around the main point of that particular passage.
2. Narrative. This type of preaching takes a wide-angle approach to the text. Instead of developing a sermon around the main point of a verse, it is based on the main theme that runs through a collection of verses—sometimes whole paragraphs—like a golden thread. Because of their narrative nature, some books of the Bible—John and Esther, for example—lend themselves more naturally to this style.
3. Topical. In this type of preaching, a topic is already determined, and the appropriate text is sought out for informing the topic and formulating the sermon. This type of preaching is like a prescription for a specific illness in that it is relevant to an issue at hand. Topical preaching allows us to address pressing issues in the moment of need.
Any of these styles can be useful in explaining the Scriptures well. I say this because sometimes there is push-back from people who call a sermon “unbiblical” simply because they did not like the style in which it was delivered. We all have preferences when it comes to style, and that’s okay. But the standard we should hold up involves asking different questions about the preaching, such as:
• Am I getting a sense of what the text means?
• Am I getting a sense of the greatness of God?
• Am I learning more about Jesus and His redemptive plan?
• Does the sense of the text move me to respond to God in some way?
• Am I more in love with God and others because of this text?
A preacher’s primary job is to give a sense of the Scriptures’ meaning and then exhort people to respond. For this reason, preaching is the emphasis in this issue. Certainly, you will find among many other topics good ideas on how to prepare a sermon and understand the different kinds of preaching types or styles. Enjoy your reading!