Delightful, Dangerous Topical PreachingJuly 4, 2007
The shame. Even though a friend suggested that I not make mention of this on my blog, I must come clean. Last Sunday evening I preached a topical sermon. Yes, you heard me right: I delivered an old fashioned ‘doctrinal’ sermon in which I threaded together a series of texts, rather than preach from one passage.
I cannot shift the blame. It was certainly I who willingly preached the first in a short series of topical sermons entitled “Aspects of Love”, considering the doctrine of “Redemption” with our congregation (the rest of the series covers reconciliation, adoption, justification and glorification).
In my defense, I could say that normal practice at Charlotte Chapel is to preach through biblical books from beginning to end. By the end of this year, for example, we will have preached 32 sermons on all 52 chapters of Jeremiah on Sunday mornings, whilst at the same juncture we will not have completed our 15 month mini-marathon through the gospel of Luke.
However, if truth be told, I found Sunday night’s experience both challenging and rewarding. I hope the congregation did too! During the sermon we considered together 1) A slavery shared (the context of redemption), 2) A price paid (the cost of redemption) and 3) An obligation owed (the implications of redemption). It was a sweeping, and I found satisfying, study.
However, for those who think I may have defected to the ‘dark side’ of the preaching continuum, let me emphasis two things. First, a preliminary point about the unfortunate divergence often made between topical and expository; and secondly -tomorrow – a balanced appraisal of the pros and cons of the topical approach.
To begin with, I can only say that it seems to me a category mistake to think that ‘expository’ and ‘topical’ are two words which can never co-exist. In the purest sense, expository preaching is to ‘lay bare’ or expose the meaning of a given text. But there seems to be – as far as I can tell – no Scriptural bar against us doing this with multiple texts. Admittedly, it is more difficult to do well. But in principle it can be done. Thus, it is not topical sermons that I have a problem with but topical sermons that are not biblically-topical.
No one would disagree with that. Would they?