The pulpit drives the church. There is no question about that. The culture, theological understanding, and overall atmosphere of the church has a direct correlation with the method and content of the preaching each Sunday. If the preaching is shallow, the church—as a whole—will be shallow. In other words, shallow preaching produces shallow Christians.
With that being said, if you are looking for a church home, you should consider making expository preaching a top priority. If the church doesn’t regularly preach this way, you might look elsewhere.
Expository preaching, at its core, is a simple way to preach the Bible—in its fullness. While most preachers find a topic then search for supporting Bible passages, expository preaching is the opposite. It finds a Bible passage and preaches the message of that particular passage.
Tim Keller writes in his book Preaching:
Expository preaching should provide the main diet of preaching for a Christian community. . . . [It] is the best method for displaying and conveying your conviction that the whole Bible is true. This approach testifies that you believe every part of the Bible to be God’s Word, not just particular themes and not just the parts you feel comfortable agreeing with.
Keller says it must be the main diet of preaching for a Christian community. Which means there can be other types of preaching, like topical, but the “main diet” ought to be expository. Why is that?
In this method of preaching, the congregation will be introduced to verses they wouldn’t normally read. Whether that’s Romans 9 or the whole book of Revelation, Christians will learn to wrestle with hard and challenging passages. And that’s a good thing. “Nothing less than a whole Bible,” writes AW Tozer, “can make a whole Christian.”
Expand your mind. Work through different doctrines and questions that spring up. Get plugged into a church that doesn’t play hopscotch around unpopular Bible verses. Find a church that dives into the controversial parts of Scripture; not for controversy’s sake, of course, but to faithfully preach what the apostle Paul called the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).
When “the whole counsel of God” is preached, it leaves little room for distortion, compromise, or cowardice. Many pastors only preach topical messages for the very reason of not ruffling any feathers. One preacher stays away from Romans 9 because members might get angry over divine election and God’s sovereignty. Another preacher veers away from Ephesians 2 because he doesn’t know what to do about predestination.
The preacher who is faithful preaches the passage that is in front of him that morning—whether it’s controversial or not. He is not worried about offending, but only concerned about pleasing God.
Friend, I contend that in order for you to grow into a deeper, more mature Christian—a “whole Christian”—then you must attend a church that has expository preaching on a regular basis. It helps you know the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.
If the church you are looking at doesn’t preach expositionally, I think you need to pass on it. To be sure, this doesn’t mean that church isn’t healthy and doesn’t have good sermons, but many times there is a shallowness because the preaching is service level. And service-level preaching makes service-level Christians. God wants to go deeper. He wants to continue to mold you into the image of His Son, and one of the ways He does so is by having you sit under expository preaching—that preaches the whole Bible.