May 25, 2015

Hardshells Adopting "Expository Preaching"

Cincinnati Primitive Baptist Church, pastored by Lasserre Bradley Jr., has a web page ( and one of the links leads one to the question and answer section.  These answers were given by reps of the church under the heading "Questions and Answers With Our Pastors."  One of the questions was "What is expository preaching and why do you do it?"  Elder Bradley gave the audio reply.

Bradley first defines "expository preaching" as

"...selecting a book of the Bible and going through it verse by verse to draw from the text the message that is there."

He says that some of the advantages of "expository preaching" is that it forces people to face difficult texts, "texts which they can't ignore."

To his credit he did say that it is justifiable to preach on topics or short texts sometimes, saying "there are relevant issues that are needed at a particular point.  For example, we have done a series on money."

Types of Sermons

In this discussion it is taken for granted that sermons have been categorized into textual, expository, and topical.  (For instance see Broadus in his "Preparation and delivery of sermons")  All do not agree on the definition of these categories, but Bradley's definition of "expository preaching" is defective, as I shall show.

It is also to be noted that not everyone defines these categories exactly alike nor that sermons cannot be a mixture of the above categories.

Perhaps a definition of "sermon" might also require some attention.

Problem #1 - The Definition

According to brother Bradley's definition, we have to conclude the following:

1.  Only those who go through a book of the Bible verse by verse, fully explaining its meaning (doing exegesis), are doing "expository preaching."  Thus,

2.  Those who are not doing "expository preaching" by this definition are not doing the best kind of preaching.  Thus,

3.  All the Hardshells of the past, and 99% of the present, are not preaching in the most profitable way.

4.  Elder Bradley himself has spent most of his years as a textual or topical preacher and so confesses that he did not do his best preaching then.

5. Elder Bradley is also affirming that his preaching style, recently adopted, is superior to not only the preaching style of his forefathers, and of his own former preaching, but that of Spurgeon, whom he admires.

Of course, people like Spurgeon, who take texts, either short or long, do "exposition."  But, Bradley's definition implies that only those who go verse by verse, Sunday by Sunday, through a chosen book of the Bible, do "expository" preaching.

In this posting I will look at the negatives of this style of preaching and recommend how the three types of sermons can be utilized.  But, before doing this, I would like to ask - "why is this method being adopted by Bradley and some others of his ilk?" 

A Remedy?

It is an old saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."  Obviously Bradley and other Hardshells think something is defective in traditional and historical Hardshell preaching (as well as in the preaching style of other textual preachers as Spurgeon).  They know that they are dying as a denomination.  Each year 100 churches go out of existence for every one that comes into existence.  Most of the churches that remain today only have a handful and these are mostly old people.  But, Bradley's church seems to be working hard to stay alive.  Over recent years they have added Bible classes, schools, programs for the young, missionary work, etc.  And, it seems, that it has helped to keep them from death.  Now it seems that the Cincinnati church wants to adopt the Reformed Baptist trappings, which includes their insistence on what they call "expository preaching."  One wonders, however, whether this latter experiment will yield the results intended and hoped for.  Has it, or will it, increase the growth of the church?  As we shall see, in part two of this mini series, the track record of those who promote "expository preaching" is not good.