Deep Preaching: Why Doctrine Matters in the Pulpit

 |  May 30, 2017

In his sermon titled “The True Aim of Preaching,” wherein he expounded upon Acts 13, Spurgeon wrote the following:

Paul’s mode of preaching, as illustrated by this chapter, was first of all to appeal to the understanding with a clear exposition of doctrinal truths of God and then to impress those truths upon the emotions of his hearers with earnest and forcible exhortations. This is an excellent model for revivalists. They must not give exhortation without doctrine, for if so, they will be like men who are content with burning powder in their guns, but have omitted the shot![1]Charles Spurgeon, The Sermons of Spurgeon, Volume 56. Amazon Digital Services, 2015. Accessed online at

This is an eloquent and timely reminder: Doctrine matters in the pulpit. A sermon without biblical doctrine is shallow, and shallow preaching will not spark true revival. If you care about revival, you should care about doctrinal preaching, which is what I mean by “deep preaching.” Simply put, deep preaching is biblical exposition that points to Christ, accords with sound doctrine, and makes practical exhortations for holiness (see Luke 24:27 and Titus 2:1).

Two qualifications:

First, deep preaching need not be great. Most of us will never be great preachers, but we can and must be faithful preachers whose definition of successful preaching is deep preaching.

Second, deep preaching need not be boring. I am not here arguing for sermons that are stuffy, heady, or egoistically intellectual. These caveats aside, there are many good reasons for recommitting oneself, one’s church, and one’s denomination to the task of deep preaching.

Worried about the decline of baptisms in our churches and spiritual immaturity in the pews? In 2008, Paige Patterson (channeling his inner Spurgeon) said that “the shallow state of preaching has exacerbated the lethargy of the church and left the lost with no real Word from God.”[2]Paige Patterson, quoted in “Shallow Preaching, Cultural Adaptability Behind Baptist Decline, Says Leader” by Audrey Barrick, May 13, 2008. Accessed online at If you love the lost, then preach the Word. If you desire revival, then preach the Word. Deep preaching is an act of love for the lost and desire for revival. In fact, deep preaching is fundamentally an act of love: Love for God, and love for people. A person cannot claim to love the God revealed in the Bible and not love the Bible. Some bristle at the idea of loving the Bible, but even a casual reading of Psalm 119 reveals a necessary connection between loving God and loving His Word.

As preachers, if we love God, we must also love deep preaching. The Bible is the Word of God, and God speaks through faithful exposition of the Bible in deep preaching. God’s people hear God’s voice, but not through mystical spiritualism peddled through mind-emptying meditation or contemplative prayer; rather, it comes through the preaching of the Word.

Quite simply, deep love leads to deep preaching. Shallow preaching is an indication of shallow love.

Jesus says as much to Peter in John 21:15-19: “Do you love me? . . . Feed my sheep.” The primary way that pastors communicate and demonstrate love for Jesus (and his sheep) is through deep preaching. Again, Spurgeon has this to say:

What are we to do with the sheep? Feed! Feed! Feed! That seems to be the whole of our business, “Feed My sheep.” . . . If I mention nothing else but feeding as the pastor’s duty, it will be the very best lesson I could have given you, even if other valuable duties are cast into the shade. Wherever you are weak, be strong in the pulpit![3]Charles Spurgeon, “Feed My Sheep”, No. 3211 (April 13, 1877) accessed online at

Deep preaching matters because we are called to love God and others. Ironically, some avoid deep preaching thinking it will negatively affect those to whom they preach. After all, will first time visitors, wayward Christians, uneducated congregants, pragmatic minded business persons, or exhausted single parents sit through -let alone appreciate- deep preaching? Isn’t the loving thing to do to stay in the shallow waters of man centeredness?

Remembering that deep preaching need not be boring or heady, the answer is an emphatic “no!”

“No” because all people need to hear God speak, and that happens through the preaching of the Word. “No” because we love God and He is pleased when His Word is valued through proclamation. “No” because God is pleased to hide doctrine from the wise and learned and reveal it to little children (Matthew 11:25). “No” because the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16) revealed by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10) through the preaching of the Word (2 Timothy 4:1-2) for all people at all times in all places.

Consider some practical steps towards being -or becoming- a deep preacher.

First, listen to deep sermons. Nothing will stoke the fire of your own resolve to a counter-cultural commitment to deep preaching like experiencing the soul-benefit of deep preaching yourself. If deep preaching does nothing to stir your own soul, then treat your indifference as any other sin; confess and repent.

Second, beware of self-deception. Do you preach deep sermons, or do you only think that you preach deep sermons? We are all easily deceived. Strive for an honest assessment of whether or not you love God and others in your preaching.

Third, attend a seminary class or conference with a commitment to training and encouraging ministers to preach doctrinal sermons. Conversely, avoid classes or conferences where deep preaching is disparaged like the plague.


About: Adam Groza (PhD) is Vice President of Enrollment and Student Services and Associate Professor of Philosophy of Religion at Gateway Seminary.

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