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How can a church be healthy?

Last week we asked the question, “What is a healthy church?” We begin answering that question today. Inherent in this question are two truths. One truth is that a church can be unhealthy. That is, a church can exist in a state of illness. Not unlike human beings with sickness, the church can exist though hindered through ill health. The second truth is that a church can be healthy. That is, the church can do what is necessary to be healthy.

For a variety of reasons, churches are in poor health. We begin to address these issues with the matter of preaching. Preaching is defined as “The announcing of the good news of God by his servants through the faithful revelation of God’s will, the exposition of God’s word and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”[1] In this definition we have three aspects:

· Announcing of the good news (i.e., the gospel)

· Exposition (i.e., unfolding) of God’s Word

· Proclamation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God

This definition also provides us with the various parts of preaching: vocal proclamation (“announcing”), focused on the discussion and application of the Word (“exposition”), and the Person of preaching (“of Jesus Christ”).

While we could easily devote an entire series to preaching (a goal that I eventually would love to undertake), we will focus our attention on the second aspect. We will deal with the first mark that Dever discusses in his book 9 Marks of a Healthy Church.[2]

Dever writes, “The first mark of a healthy church is expositional preaching. It is not only the first mark; it is far and away the most important of them all, because if you get this one right, all of the others should follow.”[3] In another book, one author offers this statement, “expository preaching focuses predominately on the text(s) under consideration along with its (their) context(s).”[4]

Expositional (exposition and expository can be used interchangeably) preaching, then, takes the text, discusses the text as originally written, and then applies the text to the hearers hearts. This idea should come as no surprise, for it was the practice of the early church in the book of Acts. “Actually, that is exactly what we see the non-prophet, non-apostle, non-Son-of-God preachers doig throughout the Bible; they preach the Scriptures, explaining them and applying them to their listeners.”[5]

According to this definition (and example in Scripture), preaching that does not develop from, expound upon, and apply to the listens from the Bible is not expositional preaching. We can all think of excellent story tellers, illustrators, and reference-connectors. These, however, are not demonstrations of expositional preaching.

A church that is healthy is a church that regularly feeds on the Word of God. Forgive me for this lengthy quote, but Dever helps us see why expositional preaching should be the norm of the church. He writes,

“Preaching should always (or almost always) be expositional because the Word of God should be at its center, directing it. In fact, churches should have the Word at their center, directing them. God has chosen to use His Word to bring life. That’s the pattern that we see in Scripture and in history. His Word is How own chosen instrument for bringing life.”[6]

Expositional (or, expository) preaching should be a mark of the church. Why? The importance of the Word of God is written so frequently throughout the Scriptures that it would be an enormous task to examine them all. However, one passage in particular comes to mind: Psalm 1.

We have looked at this psalm in a previous post, but this psalm presents a wonderful picture of the importance of the Word of God.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of the sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not whither. In all that he does, he prospers.

The Word of God has incredible (and eternal) benefits. Why would the church not want to hear it expounded? As we seek to develop into a healthy church, let us desire and require expositional preaching.

[1] Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: Martin Manser, 2009). [2] Mark Dever, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church New Expanded Edition (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 35-55. [3] Dever, 9 Marks, 39. [4] Richard L. Mayhue, “Rediscovering Expository Preaching,” in John MacArthur and the Master’s Seminary Faculty, Rediscovering Expository Preaching: Balancing the Science and Art of Biblical Exposition (Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 1992), 9. [5] Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert, Preach: Theology Meets Practice (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2012), 40. [6] Dever, 9 Marks, 42.


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