Thursday, October 18, 2007

Kudos to Tenured Expositional Pastors/Teachers

In our day of McDonald's, USA Today, YouTube videos, and instant text messaging, the art of solid, expositional teaching from the pulpit is often neglected. Many Christians seem to desire short, easy listening,"relevant" teaching, and many pastors are giving in to the wants of the congregation. But sometimes our wants are not necessarily our needs. I'm not saying there are not those occasions that serendipitous or "how to" messages are never appropriate - they are. But it seems to me that the pastor who uses them ought to dispense them like parents would candy to their kids.

One of the advantages of a pastor moving from church to church, or becoming an itinerant evangelist, is that he can preach the same message over and over again. Whereas, the pastor/teacher who stays for a long period of time with the same congregation must maintain a consistent diet of fresh expositional teaching.

We have a various interesting journal entry in the diary of Benjamin Franklin regarding the preaching of itinerant evangelist George Whitefield. Franklin was an unbeliever, but he considered Whitefield a friend. Read carefully this 1740 evaluation of Whitefield's preaching by Benjamin Franklin:

"He had a loud and clear voice, and articulated his words so perfectly that he might be heard and understood at a great distance, especially as his auditories observed the most perfect silence . . . By hearing him often, I came to distinguish easily between sermons newly composed and those which he had often preached in the course of his travels. His delivery of the latter was so improved by frequent repetition, that every accent, every emphasis, every modulation of the voice, was so perfectly well turned and well placed, that, without being interested in the subject, one could not help being pleased with the discourse."

(Cited in Edwin S. Gaustad, The Great Awakening in New England, p. 29).

One of the more difficult challenges for the preacher of the Word of God, even George Whitefield, is to give fresh, "newly composed" sermons with clarity, unction and power. Itinerant evangelism and easy listening messages have their place, but a round of applause should be given to those tenured pastors (i.e. Gill, Keach, Lloyd-Jones, MacArthur, Piper, etc.) who have made - or make it - a practice to expositionally teach the Word of God to the same congregation for decades.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson


DL said...

Well said, Wade. Amen.

Anonymous said...


An excellent reminder.

But let us not forget the critical importance of practical. life applications of that which we teach.

Far too many times I have heart excellent, well-studied, enthusiastically-delivered expository sermons that left me thinking, "That's great ... but what do I do with it in my life?"

Great exposition includes excellent application, as well. Every message should have a little taste of "how to."

Anonymous said...

Sorry ... that should have been "heard," not "heart." :)

Lin said...

"Far too many times I have heart excellent, well-studied, enthusiastically-delivered expository sermons that left me thinking, "That's great ... but what do I do with it in my life?"

Isn't that the work of the Holy Spirit in each believer?

Anonymous said...

This past Sunday was my 23rd anniversary as pastor of a church. I believe that it has forced me to preach the whole counsel of God rather than center in on a few "sugar stick" sermons. Wade, based on my personal experiences, this was your best post yet.
Gene Price
Gleason, TN

Unknown said...

As long as there's an internet and Pulpit Helps paper, I'll always have fresh material. ;)

mark sims
FBC Perrin
"the greatest church in Texas!)

Anonymous said...


I'm not sure if there is anything more important for Southern Baptist churches than to have pastors who will stay a long time and deliver that spiritual food which nourishes and strengthens the soul.

However, I think something else that is important is for mature, seasoned SBC pastors to be willing to take young men, who have this desire, under their wings to train them for this task.

No, I don't think these tenured pastors have to teach them everything and yes, I do think institutions can be very helpful, but I think there is something about that personal touch that a pastor can give a young man that an institution cannot.

I hope this post of yours gets a wide reading.



Debbie Kaufman said...

I am of the thought that if the people learn the Bible through expositional teaching that the life applications will take care of themselves more times than not. As for the how to, those books seem to sell very well but make for some pretty frustrated Christians when the how to doesn't work. How to in two simple words: Holy Spirit empowered. OK three.

Anonymous said...


I praise the Lord for this post.

I have never pastored a church before, but I am about to begin and I hope the Lord grants me grace and longevity.

I look up to the men you have mentioned and yourself for the work you have done as pastors.

Please pray for me.


Todd Pruitt said...


Thanks for the wise words. There is tremendous "power" (if I may use that word) in tenure. After eight years at Metro East I feel in some ways like I am just getting started. It takes a long time to develop trust.

The connection you make to long tenures and faithful biblical exposition is very important. It is a way to train God's people to be faithful readers and interpreters of the Bible. And who can adequately measure the sanctifying effect that occurs in our lives as pastors when year after year we study the Scriptures that we might feed God's people well?

I pray the Lord gives many more pastors long and fruitful tenures.

Kevin said...

Wonderful post, Wade! I was very blessed in that my preaching professor at NOBTS (Dr James Shaddix) really emphasized this type of preaching.

creed said...


After 29 years as a pastor of only 3 Churches, now in the 15th year at First Baptist Ashland City, TN, I thoroughly believe in long tenure and steady biblical, doctrinal preaching with a strong application. However, don't become discouraged when even long time members and "mature" christians give a blank stare when asked to list the great doctrines of the Bible. We who preach deal with the material 7 days a week, and they only 1 or 2. I'm convinced the good preacher is one who keeps digging, always is on the prowl for new illustrations, gets involved in the life of the community, stays fresh and articulate and full of the Holy Spirit in the pulpit. It is a lifestyle!

Sam Creed

Anonymous said...


Oooo ... so spiritual. Great Sunday School answer.

Yes, that is the Holy Spirit's work. The same Holy Spirit who is supposed to be guiding the preacher in prayerful preparation of his message for his people.

Just try standing before the same group of people, week-in and week-out, for several years ... preaching great content and doctrine, but with little or no application in peoples' lives.

You will, most definitely, need an intervention of the Holy Spirit.

The pastor's job is to make clear the teaching of the Scriptures. "Just the facts" doesn't cut it. Good teaching always, always, always has application ... a touch of practicality ... a way to put the teaching to work.

david b mclaughlin said...

I might have stated it a little differently but completely agree with what you are saying.

DL said...

I think Piper's line "beholding is becoming" based on 2 Cor. 3:18 is a bridge between the "application" and "Holy Spirit" argument.

Laura said...

Geoff, that was unkind. Pull the barbs out of that comment, with which I think most of us can agree.

Wade, this brought tears to my eyes thinking of my father's faithful-bordering-on-stubborn ministry. This coming May will mark the 23rd year of preaching in the same pulpit!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad its not really important how we perform and that what matters is how we offer ourselves to, and obey, Him. He must do the work, not us.

david b mclaughlin said...

If the Holy Spirit does all the work then why are we told not to quench the Spirit?

We must be willing to submit ourselves to the Spirit's leading. I think it's very dangerous to think that the Holy Spirit will just automate our lives.

Anonymous said...


I continue to enjoy reading your posts for the fact that they make me think. Thank you for that.

I would like to suggest an analogy from my discipline - music. I have been told of some college choral conductors who have 5 or 6 years worth of concerts which they repeat. At that time span, it is unlikely that a student will sing the same repertoire twice. My personal response to this kind of thinking is, "there's too much good music available to repeat the same things over and over." Further, this type of approach lends itself to not staying current, relevant, etc.

I guess my point is, it's not only pastors/preachers who face this type of issue.

I, for one, will keep studying and researching to discover what else is available for my choirs.


Anonymous said...

Lin, David, Laura -

Sorry. I didn't mean to be mean. The "Holy Spirit" comment just caught me in a bad moment.

Just one more reason to stop and think before you type. :)

Laura, I'm really not that mean. I promise.

david b mclaughlin said...

Late thought here-but it occured to me over the weekend that it would also be helpful if the congregants stayed put as well.