SBTS Expositors Summit Encourages Pastors to Preach the Whole Counsel of God
Churches need faithful exposition that teaches and applies God’s Word, not another discipleship program, SBTS President Albert Mohler told attendees of the annual Expositors Summit at Southern Seminary on October 27.
Preaching from Colossians 1, Mohler said the goal of ministry is to present believers mature in Christ.
“The miracle of ministry is that Christ, through us, is demonstrating his energy, through the powerful proclamation of the word.” Mohler said, “By the proclamation of his word, he is transforming his church into mature believers.”
The annual Expositors Summit was held October 26-28 at Southern Seminary and featured numerous faculty members and alumni in plenary and breakout sessions.
Paul’s announcement—being from God, through him, and for his readers—is a description of the call to ministry.
“As a preacher of the word, you are the conduit through which God speaks to his people,” he said. “It’s the stewardship from God that goes through the preacher and to the church to make the word of God fully known.”
Churches have relied on a variety of creative means to make disciples, he said. But only the ministry of the Word produces true, maturing believers.
“How many books, seminars, and programs have addressed discipleship?” Mohler asked. “It was all well intended—and probably had a sanctifying effect. But the point is there’s not a program on earth that can produce a disciple.
“When it comes to making disciples, there’s only one way to do it and that’s through the continual preaching of the Word. This is the ministry of preaching. We proclaim warning to everyone and teach everyone with all wisdom that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”
In a post-Christian context, preaching the Bible is often criticized because the secular world rejects Christian truth claims. But faithful exposition is still the means God uses to build his church and glorify his name.
“We’re living in a day where the gospel is considered so out of step that people may be offended by the warning,” Mohler said. “The apostle Paul says we proclaim him, warning everyone, and teaching the whole counsel of God. It’s the purpose for which God called us. It’s the purpose of the pastoral office.”
Hershael York and Abraham Kuruvilla were among SBTS faculty members that taught and preached at the annual conference.
Preaching from 2 Timothy 4, York, who serves as dean of the School of Theology and the Victor and Louise Lester Professor of Christian Preaching at SBTS, urged attendees to make preaching central to their ministry. And the sermon must not stop at merely explaining the text, he said, and it is not complete until the truths have been carefully applied to the hearers’ lives.
“The church can never be more faithful that the preaching that fashions and shapes it,” York said.
“Make preaching your main business. . . . The job of the preacher is to display the Bible’s profitability, its usefulness to his people, to show how the Holy Spirit has included this story, this passage, this admonition, for a reason. Your job is to then do the application. The pastor is not merely to be an exegete—though he must be that. If it were only about exegesis, you could just buy your people a nice set of commentaries and be done with it.
“No, it’s about shepherding. It’s about taking that Word, and as you preach its meaning, you are walking through life with these people. You know their stories and their struggles. You know their challenges, their hurts, their temptations, their problems, and you’re able to preach that Word in a way that you’re showing them exactly how God the Holy Spirit is directing that into their lives and what their response should be.”
There’s a vast difference in a preacher who lacks confidence in God’s Word and a preacher who believes its truthfulness and, in its ability, to transform lives with all his heart, York said. He encouraged hearers to be the kind of man who is consumed by God’s Word.
“When the man of God is so consumed with the Word of God, he’s so in love with the Christ that it represents, he has such a burden for the people to whom he preaches, and he stands in that pulpit, he’s got something to say,” York said.
“Paul said in Acts 20, ‘I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.’ I fear that, too often, a diminished man with a moderate sense of calling is preaching a weakened word and a truncated gospel to an unloved congregation he scarcely knows from a pulpit he regards as a temporary post until he can convince another search committee somewhere that he can do it for them for more money and presumably more people.
“But the man who is consumed with the Word of God, burdened by the Spirit of God, he’s got something to say. This book (the Bible) is not useful for self-advancement or popularity or appearing cool or culturally acceptable. It’s not useful for being invited to preside in public ceremonies or pray at inaugurations, but it’s useful for teaching. It’s useful for calling out and correcting and for training in righteousness.”
Because people under his care in a church are being pressed on issues by the culture, the pastor is going to be tempted to cut corners or play loose with biblical truth, York said.
He must not.
“Paul says to Timothy, ‘But as for you, be sober in everything, suffer hard things, do the work of an evangelist—there is no problem in your church that winning people to Christ will not overcome, so be a gospeler—fully accomplish your ministry, fulfill your ministry.
“Make sure your character fits your calling, that your personal life and your pastoral life are consistent with your preaching life so that when the days are long and your work goes unappreciated and you’re called on to do things beyond your comfort zone or even your will, wrap yourself up in the heavier clothing of your calling. Be the vicar of large things in a small pulpit.”
Abraham Kuruvilla, professor of Christian preaching and author of numerous books on preaching and homiletics, said every preacher should practice Lectio Continua—preaching verse by verse through Bible books. This approach to preaching is as old as the church and communicates to hearers that every word of God is vital.
Lectio Continua was the practice of the early church and was recovered in the Reformation, he said. To demonstrate, Kuruvilla preached a brief sermon on Judges 19, a more obscure passage on the Levite and his concubine, a passage seldom visited by even the most dedicated expository preacher.
“One implication of preaching the whole counsel of God is that every part of Scripture is valuable,” he said. “For instance, in 1 Corinthians 9:9-25, Paul holds a relatively unimportant Old Testament text, Deuteronomy 25:4, considering even that text significant for the current practice of the Corinthian hearers.”