I was trained by one of the 20th Century’s “Princes of Preaching.” And, “no” that isn’t an exaggeration.
In 1996, Haddon Robinson was named in a Baylor University poll as one of the “12 Most Effective Preachers in the English Speaking World.” In 2006, he was recognized by Christianity Today in the top 10 of its “25 Most Influential Preachers of the Past 50 Years.” In 2008, he received the E.K. Bailey “Living Legend Award.” And in 2010, Preaching Magazine named him among the “25 Most Influential Preachers of the Past 25 Years.”[i]
Haddon was not only a great preacher, he was also a great teacher of preaching. In fact, you could say, “He wrote the book on preaching.” For decades his book, Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages, was the text of choice in seminaries and Bible Colleges around the world.
Not only was I privileged to study under Haddon in seminary, but I went on to do doctoral studies with him too. This opened the door for me to teach preaching in 1998, and I have been doing so ever since.
In my training to preach, Haddon would challenge us to “think about you thinking,” because as he would remind us, “The greatest rape of the Bible is to say in God’s name what God never said.”
Haddon was committed to expository preaching: a preaching that exposes the meaning of a scripture passage or passages. For some who came before him, expository preaching was limited to one text and to a particular message structure – usually three alliterated points. But Haddon’s definition of expository preaching created a wider road.
Haddon’s definition was wide enough that a message could start with a single text, or, it could start with a topic and move back to a text or even multiple texts.[ii] It could, and even should (because of the genre of the text[s] or the needs of the audience), take various forms. In fact, a message could even take the form of a story told.
In my training and even today, I feel very at home on that road. Its width fits me well; and it is a familiar and well-traveled road for me. In fact, give me a passage to preach, any passage, and I will stay awake at night dreaming of how I can expose its message for today’s audience.
But much to my surprise, and even disappointment at first, I have found that not everyone shares my passion to expose a text or set of texts. As I have taught preaching, and worked closely with other preachers, I have come to notice that some seem more concerned with motivating a church to tackle a new challenge than teaching a passage.
Others can find in any passage a reason to invitation people to follow Christ. Others have their ears so tuned to the voice of their sheep, they prefer to only preach passages that they see addressing their sheep’s needs. And still others, they do not even settle on a passage until after they sense what God want them to say.
What is the Right Way?
When I first began to spot this phenomenon, I tried to push people to develop their messages the “right way.” After all, I told myself, once they gain some experience, they will find the same joy I find in an in-depth exposition of a text.
Of course, I would not be bringing this all up except that I have been wondering for some time now if pushing people in this direction is the right thing to do. I have begun to wonder, “Am I trying to shut down some of God’s design for God’s church? Am I trying to force apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds, to preach like teachers?”
To put it more positively, “What would it look like if apostles were freed to preach as apostles? Prophets like prophets? Evangelist as evangelist? Shepherd as shepherds? And teachers like teacher?”
More Space Yet
In my next blog, I want to invite you wonder with me, “What might be each’s unique starting point, motivation, outcome, and default?” And, “Could knowing that about ourselves free us to be more of who we are as a speaker, without compromising on biblical authority?”
And in my last blog in this series, I want us to see how knowing this about ourselves could motivate us to build speaking teams that allow other’s strengths to shine. And I want to end by seeing how a five-fold speaking team can equip our communities to be fuller reflections of “the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13d NIV)?”
[ii] See Haddon’s treatment of “Topical Exposition” on pages 56-58 of Biblical Preaching.
Join a Fall 2019 Learning Cohort
Share this Post