Dr. Steven Smith states, “Text-Driven preaching is the interpretation and communication of a Biblical text in a sermon that re-presents the substance, structure, and the spirit of the text.”
As a pastor, I have greatly benefited from learning and practicing the method of text-driven preaching. I can also say that the congregation I serve has reaped the blessings of such preaching week after week. I’ve seen them be encouraged and challenged through this homiletical method of expository preaching. I define myself as a text-driven preacher. As a result, I am thankful for the various resources on text-driven preaching through books, lectures, articles, and sermons.
Yet as I listen to text-driven sermons and seek to preach this way myself, one question that has challenged me has been, “What defines a text-driven preacher?” I understand the marks of a text-driven sermon, but what defines a text-driven preacher? I hope to set out 7 defining marks that I see in those committed to this method and what I hope is evident in my own preaching.
1. A Text-Driven Preacher is Marked by Confidence
A text-driven preacher has confidence in the Word. As preachers, we rest in the fact that God’s Word will never return void (Isa 55:11). As we exegete the text, study the syntax, and wrestle with the theology, we trust that as we deliver the Word, God will accomplish His sovereign purpose. This is why we can preach with confidence. This confidence is not derived from our own gifting, talents, or skills. Rather it is in the Word of God, inspired by the Spirit of God that will change the hearts of the people of God.
Preaching with confidence comes down to three key components. First, our confidence rests in the doctrine of inspiration. Since God inspired the Word, we know that the Bible is indeed the very Word of God. Second, our confidence is created through the doctrine of inerrancy. Since the Word of God is without error we can preach the Bible knowing that there are no errors in Scripture. Third, our confidence is grounded through the doctrine of infallibility. Since the Word is without error, the Bible is trustworthy and true in everything that it seeks to communicate. Our confidence is Word-Centered.
2. A Text-Driven Preacher is Marked by Character
Before we preach to others, we must preach to ourselves. This means that the Word must saturate our hearts and produce a change in us. Therefore, a text-driven preacher has a transformed personal character. Having a humble heart, a repentant spirit, and a renewed mind, we stand before the congregation with a changed character. The point is simple: we must not preach as the hypocrites do, saying one thing and doing another. Our lives and words must match.
The personal character of the preacher is a must in the pulpit. Paul encourages Timothy to “pay attention to your life and your teaching.” (1 Tim 4:16). Scripture is clear that the personal life of a pastor is paramount to his calling (1 Tim 3:1–7). Therefore, a text-driven preacher must have Christ-like character in the pulpit.
3. A Text-Driven Preacher is Marked by Conviction
A defining mark of a text-driven preacher is conviction. Since the inspired Word has transformed us, we can stand to preach with conviction. This conviction is the natural outflow of a personal experience with God in His Word. This conviction is a deep-seated persuasion that what we are communicating is absolutely true.
This conviction is also communicated in our passion in the pulpit. This conviction of truth flows from our lips through passion. There is indeed a sense of urgency in our preaching. We cannot do anything else expect to preach the Word. Our preaching must be a Spirit-controlled and passionate exposition of the Bible. The Word must burn in our hearts as we preach because we’ve been convinced of its truthfulness.
4. A Text-Driven Preacher is Marked by Compassion
Another defining mark of a text-driven preacher is compassion. One of the ways personal character is revealed in the pulpit is through compassion. Remember Jesus spoke with compassion to the crowds (Mark 6:34). I believe this is a defining mark of a genuine Text-Driven preacher—he actually cares for those listening to him declare the Word. His preaching and pastoring is marked by compassion.
Compassion meets the need for broken people. As we preach with compassion, we don’t rail against the congregation or intentionally “aim” the sermon at someone. Rather, we gracious steward the responsibility to care for the sheep. We lovingly show them Christ, shepherding them through the Word, which is grounded in a compassionate disposition towards the Lord’s people. A text-driven preacher has an eye towards the lost, the broken, and the hurting.
5. A Text-Driven Preacher is Marked by Courage
A text-driven preacher is courageous. It would be easy to preach the “easy texts” or passages that make the congregation feel good. However, since we are committed to the text, we must not shy away from the “hard texts” or “difficult subjects.” We tackle them head-on with courage. We must be willing to say in public that others only say in private. However, we do this through compassion.
We must be lion-hearted and lamb-like. We must courageously speak the Word as we tackle the difficulty sins of fallen humanity. The Bible gives us no other option. In this sense, we speak “prophetically” without fear of the repercussions. While it may not be popular to address specific topics and sins in our culture, we don’t aim to please people but rather to please our God (Gal 1:10). A commitment to the Word produces courage.
6. A Text-Driven Preacher is Marked by Clarity
A text-driven preacher communicates with clarity. As we’ve studied the text and written the sermon, we must aim to preach with clarity. Unfortunately, other methods of sermonizing (topical or even textual) can at times cause confusion for the congregation if multiple passages are being used in one sermon. But our commitment to a single text in its context must be clear and concise.
The clarity of a text-driven preacher is grounded in his ability to organize the sermon and then communicate the sermon. This indeed requires giftedness. The congregation should be able to walk away from his sermon and say, “I understood it clearly.”
7. A Text-Driven Preacher is Marked by Preaching Christ
The last defining mark of a text-driven preacher is simple: we must preach Christ from all the Scripture. A sermon is not a Christian sermon until we show how that particular passage leads us to the cross of Christ. There are various ways to do this correctly without abusing the text under consideration. However, each sermon is about Jesus. A text-driven preacher waves the banner of “Christ and Him Crucified” in the pulpit. Every sermon from the Old Testament and the New Testament must declare Jesus as Lord.
I’m personally convinced that “preaching Christ” is more than just tagging Jesus on the end of the sermon just before the invitation. Rather the whole sermon—from beginning to end—leads the congregation to Jesus. Our homiletical method is pointless if we don’t show the congregation the crucified, risen, and exalted Christ.
When I listen to text-driven preachers like Steven Smith, David Allen, Mac Brunson, and H. B. Charles, Jr., I see these defining marks. I pray that these marks define me as well. At the core of these marks is this simple truth: they flow from the Word. It all begins with confidence that God’s Word is the bedrock of personal, pastoral, and congregational change. As we seek to preach text-driven sermons, we must view ourselves as text-driven preachers.
Michael Cooper is the Pastor of Grace Community Church in Mabank, Texas.