Problems Permeating Churches (Part 4)

The following is the final of a four-part series addressing particular problems that seem to plague many fundamental and evangelical churches today. If the true church is to be honest with itself today, it must be willing to examine and evaluate its own beliefs and practices in light of the unchanging truth of God's Word and make any necessary changes for the good of the church and for the glory of God.

Problem #4—A Lack of Emphasis on the Exposition of Scripture

Many churches are plagued by a problem that is actually a death-blow to a healthy, fruitful, and God-honoring congregation: a lack of Scripture exposition. Without realizing it, church leaders who fail to accurately teach God’s Word and emphasize its practical application to the daily life of the believer are keeping God’s flock from receiving the spiritual food and nutrients necessary to keep them spiritually alive and healthy.

Even many pastors who claim to preach and teach God’s Word spend much of the time telling irrelevant stories and giving the congregation their own ideas and opinions on the issues of the day. Some pastors may spend only a few minutes looking at Scripture and, even then, use Scripture texts merely as a springboard to launch into their own monologues.

Several reasons exist as to why many pastors today fail to focus on the faithful exposition of God’s Word when the church gathers together:

1. Some pastors have never been taught how to faithfully teach God’s Word. Sadly, the majority of Bible colleges and seminaries today tend to focus more on counseling, church marketing, and pragmatic approaches to church growth and ministry rather than exposition of God’s Word.

2. Some pastors know how to exposit Scripture but find the effort that goes into such work too tedious and time consuming. In other words, it is much easier—and it takes much less time—to prepare and deliver a sermon that avoids the doctrinal content, precision, and relevant application necessary of one who is dedicated to expository preaching. To elaborate on a particular theme (biblical or extra-biblical) and string some Bible verses together to support one’s thesis requires much less time and effort.

3. Some pastors, whether they are able to exposit Scripture or not, choose to avoid expository preaching because to do so would fail to coincide with their own agenda. Some pastors do not want to preach through God’s Word becasue they do not want to address issues that would step on the toes of their congregation. Other pastors feel as though they will reach more people or grow a larger church if they simply address certain topics deemed relevant or appropriate by those attending their church.

Other reasons exist as to why pastors and Bible teachers in local churches fail to make much of the teaching and preaching of God’s Word. So why should expository preaching be the central focus of any church ministry?

1. The Bible itself places a great emphasis on doctrine and the study of God’s Word in the church. The apostle Paul exhorted Timothy to “preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2) because it, alone, is “given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” so a believer can be mature and “throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). He told Titus to ordain elders in the church who would “[hold] fast the faithful Word” and “be able by sound doctrine” to silence the false teachers (Titus 1:9). Paul reminded the elders at Ephesus that he had declared unto them “all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). God’s Word is His very communication to mankind. The local church should be a place where the faithful study and exposition of God’s Word is of paramount importance.

2. The only way we can get to know who God is in a fuller way is through His Word. While it is true that we can ascertain some of God’s attributes through His creation (Rom. 1:20), it is also true that we can only truly know who He is and what He is like through His personal revelation in Scripture. Christianity is not merely a religion but a relationship with Jesus Christ. One can only grow in a relationship with another through increased knowledge and awareness of that individual. God’s Word gives us such knowledge and awareness of His person and work.

3. The only way we can understand God’s will for our lives and ministries is through His Word. While God’s creation provides us with a degree of knowledge concerning His attributes, it tells us nothing about His plan, purpose, and will for our lives. Scripture alone reveals to us our natural state, our need of a Savior, our hope for salvation, and our creed for Christian living. Ephesians 4:11-12 explains that God has gifted the church with leaders who can equip the saints to do the work of the ministry, and such equipping is accomplished through the clear and faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word.

Clearly, the faithful and accurate exposition of Scripture must be the central focus of the local church in order for God to be glorified and for God’s people to get to know Him better and be equipped for ministry. — Matt Costella