Northcutt lectures focus on mind, heart, and preparation of the expositor
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS)-There is no true expositional preaching void of an exalted view of Scripture, R. Kent Hughes, senior pastor emeritus of College Church in Wheaton, Ill., said in the opening of the 2007 Northcutt Lecture series at Southwestern Seminary, Aug. 30-31.
“(Expository preaching) will only flourish when the preacher believes that Scripture is wholly inerrant, totally sufficient and massively potent,” Hughes said.
Deuteronomy 32:46-47 and Matthew 4 demonstrate that Moses and Jesus saw God’s word as life and sustenance. “What the preacher believes about Scripture is everything,” Hughes said.
Hughes, editor and contributor to the projected 50-volume “Preaching the Word” expository series, expressed concern about “the contemporary slide to dys-exposition.” The term “dys-exposition” refers to the trend of many preachers who depart from the text and never return.
Hughes identified several abuses of Scripture associated with this type of preaching, including taking the text out of context, moralizing the text and attempting to preach where the text is silent. Using a “homiletics of consensus,” which focuses on the congregation’s felt needs, fails to realize that “their deepest needs are far deeper than their perceived needs,” he said.
He believes that preachers succumb to the practice of dys-exposition for several reasons, including “homiletical sloth” and a belief that the text is not sufficient to connect with the audience. Hughes challenged those who teach the Bible to reject such approaches to preaching and gave reasons why expositional preaching is necessary.
“Word and Spirit are inseparable. When the word of God is expounded, the Spirit speaks,” said Hughes. John 3:34 and 2 Timothy 3:16 describe the connectedness between the word and Spirit.
He also pointed out that both apostolic and reformational preaching were expositional. “It was taken for granted that all biblical preaching was expository preaching,” Hughes said.
Hughes concluded by sharing the personal benefits of sequential expository preaching. “You will preach texts you would never preach if they were possible to avoid,” he said. Additionally, preachers would never have to fret about what to preach on Sunday, and they would be forced to grow as theologians.
In his second lecture, Hughes used an interactive question-and-answer format to discuss how a preacher should prepare an expository sermon. His systematic process for expository preaching begins with working out the theme of the entire book and dividing the book into homiletical sections. “When you understand what the book is about, then your texts will take on great vibrancy,” he said.
Many preachers struggle with laziness when it comes to preparing their sermons, but preaching is not rocket science, according to Hughes. “We can be good preachers, but it takes work,” he said.
Hughes discussed his approach to using illustrations in a sermon and provided a handout with excerpts from his book entitled “1001 Great Stories & Quotes.” “We must also keep before us the understanding that when people remember an illustration but not the truth it illustrated, we have failed,” he said.
“Where there is no passion, there is no preaching,” Hughes said in his third lecture, which emphasized the character and zeal of the preacher. He encouraged individuals to make sure their passion matches their personality and is directed by the Holy Spirit.
“What we preach has to come through our souls,” Hughes said. “Let it be said of us, ‘His sermon was like thunder because his life was like lightning.’”
Hughes received his Masters of Divinity from Talbot Seminary and his Doctor of Ministry from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has authored 30 books, including the best-selling “Disciplines of a Godly Man.”
The Jesse and Fannie Northcutt Lectures on Preaching and Pastoral Ministries were established in 1976 by the board of trustees. They have been funded by gifts from benefactors, friends and family. Northcutt served as a professor, dean and vice president at Southwestern Seminary from 1938-1979.
Recordings of Hughes’ first lecture during Southwestern’s chapel service may be viewed, listened to or downloaded through the seminary’s Web site, www.swbts.edu. Copies of the second and third lectures are available on CD for a nominal fee through the Media Services Office.