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What is expository preaching? An interview with Bryan Chapell

By Michael Duduit
The book Christ-Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapell (published by Baker Books) has become one of the key homiletics textbooks in college and seminary classes. That has given Chapell a significant influence in the training of future preachers. An outspoken advocate of expository preaching, Chapell is President of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, where he also teaches courses in preaching. Chapell is a new member of Preaching's Board of Contributing Editors and was interviewed last fall by Preaching editor Michael Duduit.

Preaching: Your book Christ-Centered Preaching is subtitled "Redeeming the Expository Sermon." How do you define expository preaching?

Chapell: In the most basic sense I think it is what Augustine said we try to do, which is to say what God says. As I perceive the Bible to be God's inspired Word, my greatest goal is to be able to say, "this is what God says." That involves identifying a segment of scripture -- an expository unit -- and then explain what it means; to demonstrate it if necessary -- I believe that most of the time it is necessary to demonstrate what it means -- and then to apply it to the hearts and lives of the people to whom I am speaking. It is to say to them, "This is what God says to you."

Preaching: How does the expository sermon vary from other kinds of preaching? For example, in what way does an expository sermon reflect what God said as compared to perhaps other models of preaching?

Chapell: These are not new categories, but they are helpful categories. A topical sermon gets its theme or topic from the text, but it is developed elsewhere or according to the nature of the topic. A textual sermon would get its topic plus its main ideas, its main points from the text, but the development of those points is also outside the text itself. An expository sermon gets its main idea, its main points, and its subpoints or its developmental components from the text as well. So it is by methodology binding the preacher to say what the text is saying. The preacher becomes a bond servant of the text, working according to the thought of the original author.

I don't believe that expository preaching is the only "right" kind of preaching, because one can do textual and topical preaching and still be very true to the Bible's message. The expository method has the advantage as an approach to preaching of making sure that we are walking in the paths of the original writer. We can still make interpretive errors but at least there is a lesser tendency to be preaching one's opinions or the philosophy of the age when one is approaching (the text) in an expository method.

Preaching: What do you see as the greatest benefit or benefits of using an expository model for preaching?

Chapell: The thing that I think is most advantageous in an expository method is not only are we being bound to the message of scripture, but the preacher then has the authority of God's Word with which to challenge or encourage people. That one says: "this is not me as a preacher talking. This is what God says to you based upon what this text means." So the chief advantage, I think, is the preacher is allowed to operate with the authority of what God says.

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