Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Council Estate Christians part 4: Expository Preaching

Whilst some people think that expository preaching is too difficult for council estate people to grasp, it has been one of the key features of our council estate church.

Some of the reasons I hear for NOT doing expository preaching are:
1) Literacy is too low on council estates
2) People on council estates prefer to hear stories
3) People on council estates cannot remember expository sermons
4) Expository preaching is not a biblical concept, but a only a reformation concept.

I will give quick answers to these points:

1) Literacy does NOT have a lot to do with listening and responding to expository preaching. If it did, then surely we would also say that its not worth even having a conversation with someone of low literacy. Instead the Bible teaches us that it is people's hearts that stops them listening. When the spirit says, "Let him who has ears - hear" (Matt 11:15; 13:9; Rev 2:7)- he is not referring to literacy!

2) I did not know that we prefer to hear stories! Where does this idea come from?

3) Every other Thursday night our church meets together and discusses applications from the Sunday sermon - so it would appear to us that we are able to remember. Have any tests been made to show that memory is related to your postcode?

4) There are many responses to this, I'll just pick two: Firstly, Hebrews 13:22 probably means that the book of Hebrews was a sermon. Interestingly it takes about 50 minutes to read out loud. Our sermons range from 25 - 60 minutes so I reckon we're ok (yes council estate people can sit down for that long!). Secondly, read Chrysostom's expository sermons from the 4th century - long before the reformation.

Here are a couple of testimonies from people in our church about expository preaching:

From a former youth offender who was kicked out of school at 14, and got involved in drugs and robbery:
The effects of expository teaching on my life has had a profound afffect on me. For instance, teaching from the bible tells me about God and and his will for my life. The bible tells me that faith and grace alone justify me before God and it is only by grace that i can overcome sin.If it was'nt for expository sermons i would not know this. My sinful nature would tell me i would have to earn Gods favour or to make God love me more i would have to overcome my sin by myself. My emotions tell me during the sermon,that i need to cling to Christ and to examine myself daily, confess my sins daily and go back to the Cross. expository preaching teaches my heart to live for Christ while knowing everytime i fail i have a advocate with the father which is Jesus Christ.My faviourite preachers ( other than my own preacher) are Paul Washer and John Piper, But i know the Lord desires me to serve NewLife church and it is there i get my teaching, correction and sanctification. Peace and love

From a former single parent who left school at 15:
I have been listening to sermons for over thirty years. These have been ones delivered by Bible believing Christians in a wide spectrum of style. Whilst, I found these adequate at the time, I am surprised to find these last 3 years (hearing expository sermons)that I have been challenged to rethink my approach to hearing scripture. For the first time I am being challenged to rethink how I behave, and I am no longer comfortable with not changing to conform to the many injunctions of the Word of God. It has not been easy, or comfortable, but I feel God is doing His business with me and that makes me happy to please God.

At New Life Church Roehampton we greatly value God's word. It points to our wonderful saviour Jesus Christ. We are not looking to learn how to be middle class, or successful in the world, instead we want to learn how to glorify God with our lives. It is God's word that teaches us this, and it is expository preaching that best emphasises God's word, and minimizes a person's own helpful suggestions.

Perhaps one of the pitfalls that sometimes happens today in reaching out to the poor, is that well meaning middle class Christians (whom we love and value and need btw), try to help working class people by giving their own advice. I call this 'the manna of the middle class'. It can start with thinking that a drug dealer's biggest problem is that he sells drugs, and end with someone helping that dealer to find a decent job. All the while however this dealer needed the manna from heaven - Jesus Christ. This problem could have been avoided by expository preaching for the following reasons:

1) When done correctly it teaches the bible text rather than middle class values.
2) It shows the helper the correct way to help.
3) It shows the dealer Jesus as he is revealed in his word, rather than middle class values.

By the way, I believe there are many other reasons for expository preaching, but these have been covered by many others who are better qualified than myself, and are not restricted to council estates. I am just touching on a point that has particular significance for council estates.