Platt, Gaines and Vines discuss the future of expository preaching
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) -- Three generations of Southern Baptist pastors joined the preaching faculty at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to examine the future need and roles of text-driven preaching within the church, March 8-9. During the seminary’s sixth annual Expository Preaching Workshop, pastors David Platt, Steve Gaines and Jerry Vines not only spoke on the topic during their individual main sessions, but they also fielded questions during a candid Q&A panel discussion moderated by Southwestern’s dean of theology, David Allen.
Platt, pastor of The Church at Brookhills in Birmingham, Ala., challenged the more than 250 pastors and students in attendance to preach for radical obedience with radical urgency. The 31-year-old pastor described the overwhelming spiritual lostness in the world coupled with the physical needs to which Christians are commanded in Scripture to minister and concluded that, if pastors really believe the Bible is true, then it has radical implications on their lives and ministries.
“If this is true,” Platt said, “then we do not have time to play games with our lives. We do not have times to play games with the church. We do not have time to waste our lives or our ministries living out a nice, comfortable, Christian spin on the American Dream. We have a Master who demands radical sacrifice and a mission that warrants radical urgency.”
Jerry Vines, pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Fla., shared with pastors his approach to preaching a series through 1 Thessalonians, and later demonstrated it by preaching a message from the second chapter of the book during a seminary chapel service.
During the Q&A panel with Platt and Gaines, Vines responded to a question about whether younger generations hunger for expository preaching over topical sermons: “I'm encouraged by what I see. I'm finding a real receptivity to the Word.”
Gaines, the 52-year-old pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., took workshop participants methodically through his preparation and delivery of sermons. He emphasized the need to preach apologetically to a biblically illiterate culture and added other practical tips for preaching. Answering the question about how to make the Gospel culturally accessible without compromising, Gaines said Christians must “take the never-changing Gospel to an ever-changing world.”
Southwestern president Paige Patterson concluded the workshop with a session on the genuine effects of expository preaching. Using Nehemiah 8:1-12, he said the response of the people—regardless of time period—to the anointed preaching of Scripture is brokenness with repentance followed by joyful obedience.
In addition to main sessions, the workshop offered breakout sessions by seminary preaching faculty. Steven Smith, dean of the College at Southwestern, spoke on the history of Southern Baptist preaching. According to his research, while the content may have drifted between topical and text-centered, the history of Southern Baptist preaching, up until the 1980s, reflected similar sermon structures. Since that time, this traditional approach to preaching has given way to a wide diversity in pulpit style, most prominently in the forms of seeker and emerging churches. These movements were produced from weaknesses seen in other models, but, unfortunately, some preachers have progressed away from preaching the text in the process.
“We have a phenomenal legacy,” Smith said, “but at the same time, a great heritage comes with great liabilities. And one of the liabilities is that if we are not lashed to the text, we create vacuums and those vacuums will be filled.”
Matthew McKellar, associate professor preaching, led a breakout session on the preaching of W.A. Criswell. He noted that Criswell held a powerful grasp on the English language, but “Dr. Criswell’s most effective use of persuasion occurred when he was expounding, expositing, exposing, leading out the truth of a text.”
Breakout sessions also provided the opportunity for pastors and students to strengthen their skills at preaching with variety and creativity. David Allen referenced the articles he wrote in “The Art & Craft of Biblical Preaching” to teach how to match one’s sermon structure to the structure of the genre of the text. Associate professor of preaching Calvin Pearson discussed how to bring texts of Scripture to life through first person narrative sermons.