Sermon: Expositional Preaching as a Mark of a Healthy Church -- By: Mark E. Dever

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 003:2 (Summer 1999)
Article: Sermon: Expositional Preaching as a Mark of a Healthy Church
Author: Mark E. Dever

Sermon: Expositional Preaching as a
Mark of a Healthy Church

Mark Dever

Mark Dever is pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D. C. A graduate of Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, he is the author of Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. His next book is a study of Richard Sibbes. He is a contributing editor to The Founders Journal.


In my study, I have shelves and stacks of books that deal with the topic: What makes a good church? The answers range from friendliness to financial planning to being sensitive to visitors to vibrant music to pleasant surroundings to pristine bathrooms to plentiful parking to exciting children’s programs to elaborate Sunday School options.

You need to know the marks of a healthy church, especially if you are a visitor looking for a church. Even those who are members need to consider the marks of a good church, for we live in a transient age. Regardless of how happy you may be living here, you, too, might move, and perhaps sooner than you think. You need to know what your goal is in looking for a church, and you need to identify the right foundation. Even if you stay, you need to know what makes a good church. For you will have a role in building and shaping it. “Experts” will tell you it is everything from how religion-free your language is to how invisible your membership requirements are. Are secure nurseries and sparkling bathrooms really the way to church growth and church health?

Expositional Preaching

The most important distinguishing mark of a healthy church is expositional preaching. It is the most important because careful and thorough preaching of God’s Word will bring many other blessings to a church. Without expository preaching, other signs of health may be accidental. They may be discarded or distorted all too easily because they did not spring from the Word, nor are they continually being reshaped and refreshed by it. But if you establish the priority of the Word, then you have in place the single most important aspect of the church’s life. With the Word established, a church may experience growing health; without the Word, a church’s health is imperiled.

What is this essential mark that is called “expositional preaching”? Expository preaching is usually contrasted to “topical preaching,” which is the kind of preaching in this sermon, when I take a subject and talk about it, rather than a text from the Bible and spend the whole sermon explaining it.

The topical sermon begins with a particular topic on which the preacher wants to preach and then assembles truth from various texts of the Bible. Stories and anecdotes are combined, and all are woven together around one theme rather ...

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