The Preacher as Pastor | Why Text-Driven Preaching is Needed for Healthy Pastoral Ministry

 |  January 11, 2017

It is a joy to serve at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where we espouse what is called “Text-Driven Preaching.” Simply put, we want the chosen text (Yes there should be an actual biblical text) to drive the sermon. The text-driven preacher is committed to the content and structure of the text and attempts to communicate it faithfully to the hearer. I am convinced that this type of preaching produces the greatest benefit in any pastoral ministry setting.

If you have been called to pastor one of your main assignments is the week by week preaching and teaching of the Word of God. The overwhelming content of our preaching should be text-driven expository messages through books or major portions of the Scripture.

There are several reasons why I believe the pastor and his ministry is strengthened by this type of preaching. Text-Driven preaching through books of the Bible:

Provides accountability and efficiency: The pastor that is preaching through a book of the Bible has the benefit of knowing where he is heading in his preaching. He does not have to figure out what he is going to preach when he gets into the office Monday morning. Your audience provides accountability because they know where you are heading as well and are looking for answers.

Covers the whole counsel of the Word of God: If we are not careful as preachers we can get fixated on particular topics or popular subjects of the day. When you preach through books of the Bible you cover the whole of Scripture, the fun passages, the easy to understand passages, the popular passages, AND the unpopular passages.

Provides greater use of time: Preaching through a book of the bible provides several areas where your times is used more efficiently. With numerous sermons from the same book much of the work concerning context, background, provenance, audience, purpose of the work, and other details is dealt with from the beginning and takes less time in preparation each week.

Offers protection for the pastor: Have you ever preached a message because you were convinced a particular person needed to hear it? This is a dangerous method of choosing a sermon topic/text. An additional benefit of preaching through books is that it offers protection to the pastor. No one can claim, “He just picked that text because of what is going on in the church right now!” The reality is that we should be bold and preach truth no matter what the circumstance, but there is freedom and wisdom in trusting that God’s word can address church issues in God’s timing.

Deals with all necessary issues: Sometimes pastors lack patience and we want to hit an issue head on and have the exact text to do it. I would argue that if you preach through books of the Bible you can trust that the text eventually confronts all necessary issues, and normally with much better timing than we have on our own.

Provides ease in planning preaching and worship service: A very practical benefit to preaching through books is that it makes planning the preaching calendar much easier. I have found that music leaders like to know where the pastor is going and when you are preaching through books of the Bible it is much easier to plan worship services that actually have something to do with the sermon.

Feeds the body and encourages further study: Text-driven preaching through books of the Bible is a much healthier diet for the body of Christ. Preachers should consistently deliver faithful exposition of the text in a passionate and creative manner. I believe much of the unhealthiness in churches stems back to an lacking or unhealthy diet from the pulpit. Another interesting result of preaching through books of the Bible is that it increases questions concerning the biblical book. When I was preaching through the book of Daniel, while preaching in chapters 1–6, I was getting lots of questions about chapters 7–12. Are these types of questions and feedback beneficial to the preacher? I certainly thought so, I knew what types of questions my audience was asking about the text before I even preached the sermon. I did not incorporate all the questions into my content, but it certainly helped me better understand how to communicate to my audience.

Feeds the preacher: We are really not able to preach or teach a text until it has taught us. If you leave the study and head to the pulpit and the message has not gripped your soul, challenged your spirit, corrected your attitude, and caught fire in your being, you are not doing it right! The systematic day to day study of a book of the Bible is some of the most beneficial and rewarding time any pastor can spend. We are called to feed the sheep, but if we are not consuming the Word ourselves through diligent study there is nothing to give.

In exhorting pastors to preach through books of the Bible W. A. Criswell made this declaration,

A remarkable thing happens when a pastor preaches through a book of the Bible. Too many preachers walk up and down their studies wringing their hands, crying ‘What shall I preach? And where can I get the pertinent material I need form my listening saints?’I also walk up and down my study, but my cry is altogether different. There is so much to preach, and so much God has said that I am afraid I am going to die before I have delivered the messages that I see in God’s book.[1]

[1] W. A. Criswell, Criswell’s Guidebook for Pastors (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1980), 61.

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