This past Sunday, I preached the final sermon in a 12-week journey through Ecclesiastes. In 13+ years of pastoring, it marks the fifteenth book that I have preached all the way through, and the tenth in seven years at my current church.**
Growing up in the same church for the first twenty years of my life, most of the sermons that I heard were topical in nature. They weren’t bad, many were quite good, and they weren’t unbiblical, but they never really brought a text of Scripture together. They simply connected verses about a single topic, like mid-column references in some Bibles.
When I started as a junior at a university far from home and plugged into a church there, the pastor had us open our Bibles to the chapter and verse where he had left off the week before. Most of the preaching that I heard during my three years at that church was like that: verse-by-verse, passage-by-passage through a book of the Bible.
I found myself feasting on Scripture, driven by a hunger that I didn’t even know that I had before. I found myself growing spiritually in a way that I hadn’t up to that point. To my 20-year-old self, the act of hearing a godly man preach through a book of the Bible was literally life-changing. Then when I went to seminary, that conviction was solidified.
As a 23-going-on-24-year-old first-time pastor at a country church of 15 people, I started with 2 Timothy 1:1 on my first official Sunday and proceeded to preach through that letter. Though, reflecting back, my expositional skills needed a lot of refining, I found most of the people at that church as hungry for God’s word as I had been.
In the years since, I haven’t always preached through a book. In fact, I’d call it about half and half. I’m about to do a 3-week series on evangelism followed by a 4-week series on spiritual growth before I dive into my next book. But even when I do topical series, I don’t cobble together a bunch of verses, but rather focus on a passage or text that is dedicated to said topic. It’s the conviction to be expositional even when being topical.
So, I say “thank you” to my college pastor, Ronnie, who opened my eyes to exposition. I say “thank you” to my numerous professors, and especially to Dr. York in my preaching classes, who continued to cultivate that conviction. I say “thank you” to my brothers-in-arms, other pastors who faithfully exposit God’s word. I say “thank you” because it all reminds me: It’s not about the messenger, but the message, and I’m at my best when I’m helping people feast on God’s word and not on Mike’s thoughts.
**Note: I figured I would list out the books I have preached through thus far: Ruth (twice), Ecclesiastes, Obadiah (twice), Jonah, Haggai, Malachi, John, Acts, Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Timothy (twice), Titus, Hebrews, James, and 1 Peter. I’ve also done expositional series on Matthew 5-7, John 13-21, and 1 Corinthians 12-14. In other studies (such as Wednesday night Bible study), I’ve taken small groups through Proverbs, Isaiah, Daniel, Zechariah, Matthew, Luke, and Revelation. A few weeks back on Wednesday night, we began Genesis.