LeaderLines – from Hillcrest Baptist Church, Austin, Texas  Contact Tom Goodman, Pastor
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Hillcrest Church Office
December 18, 2003

LeaderLines is a weekly “e-briefing” providing valuable information and inspiration to those who serve at Hillcrest Baptist Church.

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Here is this week's LeaderLines. . . .

“Exposing the Word”
by Tom Goodman

SPECIAL NOTE:  We’ve prepared e-cards that you can send to your friends, inviting them to Christmas events at Hillcrest and to our January 9 workshop, “Finding God in The Lord of the Rings.”  Go to www.HillcrestAustin.org/ecard to find the cards.

Let’s hear it for our great Sunday School workers!  Because of their contacts, 517 people showed up for the Bible study hour this past Sunday.  Great work, gang!

It’s the Bible study in our worship hour I want to discuss in this edition of LeaderLines.  I just finished reading a collection of articles on the importance of expository preaching and most of it led me to say, “Amen!”  The word “expository” refers to “exposing, revealing, or unpacking” the meaning of Scripture.  In fact, the phrase “expository preaching” sounds redundant to me:  if you’re not “exposing” the meaning and application of Scripture, are you really preaching?

I only had one problem with the articles:  the journalist and the preachers she quoted defined “expository preaching” too narrowly.  In their mind, the only way to be “faithful” to Scripture was to preach it line-by-line until you’ve made it from beginning to end through a single book.  That’s certainly one way to expose the meaning and application of Scripture, but not the only way.  I develop a lot of sermons that are verse-by-verse expositions of a single passage.  But I also develop sermons that are verse-with-verse expositions.  Either way, the aim is to help people understand and apply the perfect Word of God to their lives.

When I was in seminary, my preaching classes were taught by one of the foremost communicators of that day.  He hammered into us the worth of verse-by-verse exposition.  The not-so-subtle implication was that this form of exposition was the only way to communicate God’s Word.  After his class, I would go across the hall to a class called “Systematic Theology” where we spent time looking at all the Bible had to say about particular topics.  For example, one day we’d examine everything Scripture had to say about the love of God, and then the next day we’d look at all the Bible had to say about the wrath of God, and then the next day we researched verses about heaven, and then . . . well, you get the picture.

How strange that in one class I was taught that the only “real” way to teach Scripture was verse-by-verse, and then I went across the hall to be taught Scripture in a verse-with-verse method.

After being exposed to both methods of understanding Scripture, which method do you think I regard as best:  “verse-by-verse” or “verse-with-verse”?  Altogether now:  “YES!”

Actually, most of my preaching is the “verse-by-verse” variety.  I just completed a six-month Sunday night study in Philippians using this method.  And even when I’m not doing a “book study,” I usually spend the entire sermon on a single passage, letting the flow of that passage dictate the shape of my outline.

But there’s a richness in the verse-with-verse approach, too.  I love to take people through the great biblical themes, pulling together ten to twenty scripture references so we can see what the entire Bible has to say about a subject.  In Luke 24:27, Jesus did exactly this when trying to get two disciples to understand who he was:  “Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.”

H-m-m.  Sounds suspiciously like “verse-with-verse” preaching, not “verse-by-verse.”  He must have never attended a preaching seminar.

I’m prayerfully putting together my preaching calendar for 2004.  As my partners in leadership, would you take a moment to pray for that important work?  May God help me as I “expose” the Word to you!


P.S.  Last week I introduced the “Circles of Commitment,” and I said that every person we influence is found in one of these five circles.  I intended to begin a more in-depth look at each of those five circles in this week’s LeaderLines, but with the holidays upon us, I will wait until the new year to begin that series.  LeaderLines will not appear in your inbox on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day so that our webmaster (Paul Waldo) and I can spend time with our families.  God bless your time with your own families!