A dear friend emailed me these two questions:
"Have you ever taught through the attributes of God in your church? I know many people believe you must just preach through books of the Bible and never deviate. I am not sure of your opinion here?"
My brief and specific reply was the following:
Yes, I have preached at different times on the attributes of God specifically in a topical way; I do not hold a view that you just have to always preach through books; there are always times that topics and other subjects need to be addressed, so as to equip, teach and building up the flock, to help them be sound in all areas of truth, addressing at times different subjects and topics.
It is very healthy at times to do some topical series, such as the doctrines of grace, the attributes of God, prayer, church leadership issues such as the topics of elders and deacons, the doctrine of hell, etc;
I feel that the contemporary view is wrong that says the only way to preach is expositionally through book after book; in the first place, there are many who do this who are not gifted enough to do it for any length of time; they weary a church with verse by verse exposition because they are not gifted enough as preachers to make it truly profitable and enjoyable. I am afraid some saints leave a service at their church after a 3 year series on the book of Jude, saying, "Well, I'm glad that's over-- now next, as the song says, 'What have I to dread, what have I to fear?'
Preaching ought to be such that every sermon is a word from God that is fresh, alive, pertinent, and speaks one clear message from the Bible. Believers ought to go away from a sermon saying, "That was such truth and so good, that I want more and more of that."
In my opinion, it is wrong to look down upon 'topical' preaching; to be expositional means to preach what is in the text itself and what it actually means; it does not necessarily mean book by book; one can preach through books and actually not be an expository preacher; and one can preach from one verse at a time, addressing different topics, subjects and specific doctrines, without ever preaching a series through a book and actually be expositional, because the meaning of that passage is being exposed, explained, and applied.
It is good balance to do both; And then there's Spurgeon, who never preached through books of the Bible ever--never a series, never consecutively through a book; he would always preach a single verse of Scripture and not a paragraph or longer passage;
Others have done it completely different; Martyn Lloyd-Jones regularly preached through books, but he also addressed topics in various situations, especially in minister's conferences. So younger preachers don't need to accept as law and gospel the view of those who look down upon topical preaching; you can do that it and still be expositional at the same time;
this is a great subject; we can talk more about it; and remember this--the goal of true preaching is not to be a great expositional preacher--the goal in preaching is for every sermon to bring to the people a sense of the presence and greatness of God Himself.
Blessings, dear brother, on all your preaching labors--and remember, our greatest need in preaching is the fullness and power of the Spirit--pray for the Spirit upon your preaching, whether you are doing 50 sermons on Mark or a single message on the glory of Christ. We always desperately need the ministry of the Holy Spirit to rest upon our preaching or no one will really be helped anyway.
- Mack T.