I’ve had many conversations recently with a variety of people about the differences in the ways pastors preach and the pros and cons of different styles. Broadly, the two basic categories for preaching are topical and expository. Topical generally means that the preacher wants to address a particular part of Kingdom and Christian life and uses a passage of scripture appropriately. Expository, or expositional, preaching generally is understood to mean starting in a particular book and preaching through that book verse by verse until it is finished and addressing whatever Kingdom and Christian life issues flow forth from the text.
Both of these preaching styles have benefits for the body of Christ, and at Crossroads we employ both methods depending on the year and season. One might categorize the way we try to preach as “topositional” – meaning, we start with the issues we believe God is wanting to speak into at Crossroads, and then we use texts the Holy Spirit points out in an expositional manner to preach.
Regardless, preaching style is often the scapegoat for personal responsibility in these conversations. The thought process goes something like this: “if the preacher were ___________ (different in the way he preached topical/expositional), then the people would be better ‘fed’ and more biblically knowledgeable and so become better Christians.” This logic is flawed, though. Even if we preached for 2 hours a week, given the 7% average retention rate for listening, preaching by itself as one’s only conduit for scripture will not amount to biblical literacy.
The only way Jesus’ people will become Biblically literate is by engaging in the discipline of permeating their own life with scripture. Possible avenues for accomplishing this are manifold! You can engage in the simple act of starting in Genesis 1 and reading a chapter a day; you can listen to the scripture on your drive to work or your morning clean; there are millions of YouTube resources available; you can read one-to-one with another person. If you want to get in shape, there are tons of options: Karate, Keto, CrossFit, running, Atkins, weight training, yoga, dancing. None of these is necessarily better than the other, what is important is picking one that you will stick with and engaging in the discipline of it. None of the options for permeating your life with scripture are necessarily better than another, but any of them are better than none of them. Pick one you can stick with and engage in the discipline of permeating your life with scripture.
~Pastor Nicholas Rich