What Does Refuge Church Raleigh Believe About Preaching?
What is Preaching?
The dictionary defines preaching like this: “the delivery of a sermon or religious address to an assembled group of people, typically in church.” That’s a broad definition that leaves room for a lot of different approaches to preaching. There are churches that have an inspirational message each week. They want you to feel good and be inspired to be better this week than last week. The pastor might tell you to believe in yourself or think positively or to believe in God’s favor toward you. Other churches will have very short 15 minute homilies (a fancy word for sermon). A homily is normally a lot shorter and consists of a brief story with a simple point the pastor wants to make. Some churches want to give you loads of practical advice about your personal finances, leadership, how to be a good employee, and the list goes on. There are other churches that have more of an academic approach to preaching and it can feel like you’re attending a lecture full of information, but you may leave feeling like nothing you heard really mattered.
What is Refuge Church’s Approach to Preaching?
At Refuge Church we believe in something called Consecutive Expositional Preaching. That’s a complicated way of simply saying we believe it is best to preach through books of the Bible, covering a small portion of the book each week, until we complete the whole book. We believe a regular diet of this kind of preaching is the healthiest approach, though there are times we may take a break for a few weeks between books or in the middle of long books to preach on other truths from the Bible. Why would we approach preaching this way? Don’t people prefer practical advice or feel good messages? Doesn’t it get boring preaching through books of the Bible every single week? Those are all fair questions and I hope we can provide some answers below.
Why Does Refuge Practice Consecutive Expositional Preaching?
We want to hear from God
We take the gathering of God’s people on Sunday mornings seriously. God commands Christians to gather weekly to encourage one another, sing together, pray together, and hear from the Word of God. Therefore, it’s the pastor’s job to make sure that what he says is faithful to what God has already said in His Word (you can read more about what we believe about the Bible here). The best way to do that is to be sure that the pastor’s sermon is an explanation of God’s Word and not simply his own opinions and ideas. Those listening to the sermon should be able to look at their own Bible and see exactly from where the pastor is getting his ideas and points.
Ultimately, we want to hear from God because he has revealed his character to us in His Word. And it is through His Word that we are able to see and know the Word made flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. In other words, if we are going to know Jesus it will mainly be through the Word of God. Therefore, we want to hear from God’s Word every Sunday so that we can know more of Christ every Sunday.
God makes promises about His Word
God has made clear promises about what His Word, the Bible, is able to accomplish in our lives. Those promises aren’t attached to the ideas and opinions of a pastor. God doesn’t promise that a pastor’s advice will be effective, or help us through suffering, or make us more like Jesus. But, he does make those kinds of promises concerning the truth of His Word. Just listen to a few:
Hebrews 4:12: “12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17: “16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
There are many other promises like these we could list. If these are true, and we believe they are, then we would be foolish not to strive to make the Word of God central every single week. Why would we want to forfeit benefitting from these promises? Therefore, we always strive to be sure that the sermon is an explanation of the truth God has already revealed in His Word
It equips people to read God’s Word for themselves
When a pastor seeks to make his sermon an explanation of what the people are already looking at in their Bibles, it teaches them how to read and study the Bible for themselves. If a pastor is faithfully explaining what the passage means by what it says, then people also learn how to read a passage and understand what it means by what it says. They will begin to learn what questions to ask when they read and how to go about finding answers in the Bible itself. They will grow in their understanding of how the authors of the bible make arguments and develop points. They will see how connecting words are really important like for, because, if, therefore, by, and but. In other words, even if a church doesn’t offer a class on how to study the Bible, Expository Preaching teaches by example every week.
Prevents the pastor from just talking about his favorite topics
Everyone has their favorite biblical issues they like to talk about. It might be a theological issue like end times, it may be ethical questions, it may be apologetics, or even social justice issues. Pastors are no different. We have a tendency to focus on a handful of issues or topics that interest us. There’s nothing wrong with having an interest in those things, but as pastors our job is to teach God’s Word as a whole. Preaching through books of the Bible (Consecutive Expository Preaching) forces pastors to expand their own understanding of God’s Word and creates opportunities to study and talk about topics they may have never picked on their own. This also means that they are going to have to deal with difficult issues they may not want to deal with otherwise.
So, in conclusion, while there is no chapter or verse of the Bible that says preaching must be done this way, it seems that it’s the wisest method in the long run. As I mentioned earlier, there will be moments in the life of a church where we may work through a topical series on a theological topic or a short series on a practical issue the Bible addresses. But, the regular diet of our church will always be Consecutive Expository Preaching because we feel the Bible pushes us in that direction and we feel the spiritual advantages are many!