Preaching is a fundamental aspect of Christian worship, serving as a means to communicate the teachings of the Bible to the congregation.
While the ultimate goal of preaching is to convey the message of the Scriptures, there are different approaches that preachers can take to achieve this.
Two of the most common preaching styles are expository preaching and topical preaching. Each style has its own unique characteristics and methods of presenting the biblical message.
In this article, we will explore the differences between expository and topical preaching.
Comparing Expository and Topical Preaching
Expository preaching and topical preaching are two distinct approaches to delivering sermons, each with its own set of characteristics and methods.
In expository preaching, the preacher selects a specific passage of Scripture and systematically explains its meaning, verse by verse, in the context of the entire passage.
This approach allows the preacher to delve deeply into the text, uncovering its nuances and providing a comprehensive understanding of the passage.
Expository preaching is often seen as a more rigorous and scholarly approach, as it requires a thorough examination of the text and its context.
|Feature||Expository Preaching||Topical Preaching|
|Definition||Preaching that systematically explains and applies a specific passage or section of Scripture.||Preaching that focuses on a specific topic or theme, drawing from various passages of Scripture.|
|Focus||Explores the original meaning and context of the text, and applies it to contemporary life.||Addresses a particular topic or theme, using multiple passages to support the message.|
|Structure||Follows the structure of the text being explained, often working through an entire book or chapter.||Follows a thematic or topical structure, using various passages to support the message.|
|Goal||To understand and communicate the overall message of a specific passage or section of Scripture.||To address a specific topic or theme, providing biblical insights and applications.|
|Application||Applies the insights gained from the specific passage to contemporary life.||Applies the insights gained from various passages to the specific topic or theme being addressed.|
On the other hand, topical preaching focuses on a particular theme or topic, drawing from multiple passages of Scripture to support the chosen theme.
The preacher selects relevant verses from different parts of the Bible to illustrate and explain the chosen topic.
This approach allows the preacher to address specific issues or themes that may be relevant to the congregation at a particular time.
Topical preaching is often seen as more accessible and relatable, as it allows the preacher to address contemporary issues and connect them to the teachings of the Bible.
Both expository and topical preaching have their strengths and weaknesses. Expository preaching provides a deep and thorough understanding of the text, but it may be seen as too academic or scholarly for some congregations.
Topical preaching is more accessible and relatable, but it may not provide as comprehensive an understanding of the text.
Definition and Characteristics of Expository Preaching
Expository preaching is a method of preaching that focuses on explaining and interpreting a specific passage of Scripture in its context.
The primary goal of expository preaching is to help the congregation understand the meaning of the text and how it applies to their lives. This approach to preaching is characterized by several key features.
First, expository preaching is text-centered. The preacher selects a passage of Scripture and systematically explains its meaning, verse by verse.
The sermon is built around the text, and the preacher seeks to uncover the original intent of the author and the message of the passage.
Second, expository preaching is contextual. The preacher considers the historical, cultural, and literary context of the passage to provide a more accurate and nuanced interpretation.
This includes understanding the historical background, the cultural practices of the time, and the literary genre of the text.
Third, expository preaching is application-oriented. The preacher seeks to bridge the gap between the ancient world of the Bible and the contemporary world of the congregation.
The preacher applies the principles and teachings of the text to the lives of the congregation, helping them understand how the text is relevant to their daily lives.
Fourth, expository preaching is thorough. The preacher delves deeply into the text, uncovering its nuances and subtleties.
This approach requires careful study and preparation, as the preacher seeks to provide a comprehensive understanding of the passage.
Definition and Characteristics of Topical Preaching
Topical preaching is a method of preaching that focuses on a specific topic or theme, rather than a specific passage of Scripture.
The preacher selects a topic that is relevant to the congregation and explores it from a biblical perspective. This approach to preaching is characterized by several key features.
First, topical preaching is theme-centered. The preacher selects a topic or theme and explores it through various passages of Scripture that address the topic.
The sermon is built around the theme, and the preacher seeks to provide a biblical perspective on the topic.
Second, topical preaching is flexible. The preacher has the freedom to select passages from different books of the Bible, both from the Old and New Testaments, to support the theme.
This allows the preacher to provide a comprehensive view of the topic from a biblical perspective.
Third, topical preaching is relevant. The preacher selects topics that are relevant to the congregation and their daily lives.
The preacher addresses contemporary issues and challenges, helping the congregation understand how the Bible speaks to their specific needs and concerns.
Fourth, topical preaching is practical. The preacher seeks to provide practical applications of the biblical principles to the lives of the congregation.
The preacher offers concrete steps and actions that the congregation can take to apply the teachings of the Bible to their daily lives.
Choosing the Right Preaching Style
Selecting the appropriate preaching style—whether expository or topical—depends on various factors, including the congregation’s needs, the preacher’s strengths, and the specific context of the sermon. Both styles have their advantages and can be effective in different situations.
Consider the Congregation’s Needs: The needs of the congregation should be a primary consideration. If the congregation is facing specific challenges or questions, a topical sermon addressing those issues may be more appropriate.
On the other hand, if the congregation needs a deeper understanding of a particular book or passage of the Bible, an expository sermon may be more suitable.
Assess Your Strengths as a Preacher: Preachers may naturally gravitate towards one style over the other based on their strengths and preferences.
Some preachers excel at in-depth, verse-by-verse exposition, while others are skilled at connecting biblical principles to contemporary issues. Recognize your strengths and use them to your advantage.
Evaluate the Context of the Sermon: The context in which the sermon is delivered can also influence the choice of preaching style.
For example, a sermon series on a specific book of the Bible may lend itself to expository preaching, while a one-off sermon addressing a current event may be better suited for a topical approach.
Balance Both Styles: While it’s essential to choose the right preaching style for each sermon, it’s also important to strike a balance between expository and topical preaching over time.
Regularly incorporating both styles can provide a well-rounded diet of biblical teaching for the congregation.
Pray for Guidance: Ultimately, the choice of preaching style should be guided by prayer. Seek the Lord’s guidance in selecting the right approach for each sermon, and trust Him to use your preaching to edify and equip the congregation.
Expository preaching excels in providing a deep, verse-by-verse understanding of a particular passage or book of the Bible.
In contrast, topical preaching is well-suited for addressing specific issues or themes relevant to the congregation. Ultimately, the goal of both styles is the same: to faithfully proclaim the truth of Scripture and to equip the congregation for faithful Christian living.
Regardless of the style chosen, the most important thing is to preach the Word of God with clarity, conviction, and a desire to see lives transformed by its truth.