The Anatomy of Exposition: Logos, Ethos, and Pathos -- By: Kent Hughes

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 03:2 (Summer 1999)
Article: The Anatomy of Exposition: Logos, Ethos, and Pathos
Author: Kent Hughes

The Anatomy of Exposition:
Logos, Ethos, and Pathos

Kent Hughes

Kent Hughes is pastor of The College Church, Wheaton, Illinois. He is the author of numerous volumes, including Disciplines of a Godly Man, Disciplines of Grace, and the extremely popular Preaching the Word series. The following article is a transcription of the Mullins Lectures, which he delivered at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fall, 1998.


Preaching has been the dominating passion of my life since the 1960s. George Carlin has a famous comedic line about that era: “If you remember the sixties, you weren’t there.” I remember the sixties because, instead of doing drugs, I was doing ministry. I was in southern California, wearing sandals, bellbottoms, and long side burns, teaching the Word to droves of eager students with their rabbitskin-covered Bibles opened to the text I was expounding.

Now after some 35 years in ministry, biblical exposition is my passion. “Preaching and preachers,” to borrow Lloyd- Jones’s term, and homiletical theory intrigue me. Not only do I collect books on preaching, but I spend about 20–25 hours each week preparing my sermons. While preaching is an interesting subject, it is more than that. It is God’s call on my life.

Abuses of Exposition

Because preaching is God’s call on my life, the contemporary slide toward what I call “dis-exposition” is a vital concern to me. Though the term is new, you have all experienced dis-exposition as a listener. You can easily recall a Sunday service in which the biblical text is announced and you settle back, Bible in hand for a good Sunday meal, only to find out that the text is departed from, never to return. Disexposition causes Sunday indigestion.

There are a variety of ways in which a pastor can practice dis-exposition. For example, some pastors preach the same content over and over again, regardless of the text on which the sermon is supposedly based. There is no variety, no mining of the breadth and depth of the biblical material, only the same point made week after week. If you listen to this kind of preaching month after month and year after year, a kind of brain death takes place. You can sit under the preacher’s teaching for years and never recall anything you learned from the Bible. In another case, there is dis-exposition that parades as exposition. In this instance, the text is mentioned, but there is no engagement with the text and its content. There is no attempt to convey that passage’s true meaning.

Dis-exposition invites many abuses of the text. Peter Adam lists some of these in his book Speaking God’s Words,1 an...

You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
Click here to subscribe
visitor : : uid: ()