As expositors, we all have to start our preaching ministry somewhere. That means beginning at ground zero and then growing our skills in the pulpit for the glory of God.
I remember the excitement when I first began to preach the word of God. There was an immense joy every time I prepared a message, and every time I stood up to proclaim its truth. With each message delivered, there was an increased joy that continues to this day.
It was almost like the first time you kissed your wife. There was a special excitement about that moment, and there is a similar anticipation when you begin to exposit the Scripture.
What are some tips as you begin your ministry as an expositor? There are many things I could say, so this is not a comprehensive list. Here are six key ideas to help strengthen your progress as an expositor.
Preach A Short Book
One, I would begin by preaching a short book. If you are graduating from seminary and entering the pastorate, and you have never spoken expositionally more than a few times in Sunday school, it is probably not the best idea to attempt to preach verse-by-verse through a long book like Isaiah.
I would start with a shorter book. After I graduated from seminary and pastored my first church, I started with the relatively short epistle of Colossians. A lot of expositors start with similar books, like Philippians, Titus, 1 or 2 Timothy.
As you start your preaching ministry, it is important that the book you choose to preach is a manageable size. You can more easily get your arms around a shorter book. You will not feel as intimidated as if you were preaching a longer book.
I would strongly encourage you to start with a shorter book in the Bible, or a shorter section within a larger book. For example, rather than preaching the entire gospel of Matthew, you could begin with the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. The more you can narrow down the number of chapters, the better you will do as you start out.
Find Good Study Aids
The second is to find good study aids. Excellent commentaries and expository sermons will greatly aid you in your sermon preparation.
Finding good commentaries is relatively easy. If you are a graduate of seminary, you have already had exposure to solid resources through the campus bookstore and using books in the library. Likewise, those who are self-taught have often amassed a library of reliable books to guide their study.
In addition, it is helpful to read or listen to a skilled expositor preach through the book you have chosen. Not that you would exactly mirror their approach, but you can see how an experienced preacher divided the passage, how he crafted an outline, how he introduced the message, how he included key word studies, how he supplemented with cross references, and how he applied it. That insight would be a tremendous help to any new expositor.
Find the Right Amount
Third, find the literary unit. Find the paragraph of thought and begin to anticipate how many verses you will preach. As a general rule, new expositors tend to take more verses per sermon. Older expositors tend to expound fewer verses per sermon. The reason for this is very simple: the longer you preach, the more you know. The more you know, the more you have to say.
When I first began preaching, I had far less to say then, because I knew much less about the Bible than I do now. When I initially began to preach, I was covering more verses with more content to explain. So, as I would sit down to prepare a message, I would put my arms around a larger cluster of verses. I think you would find the same true in the early years of your ministry.
Dig Into a Text
Fourth, I would say to deal with a specific text. Dig down into the text. Do not depart from the text. You do not have to be clever. You do not have to be creative. You do not have to be entertaining. You just need to be a mouthpiece for this text. Show what this text teaches. Then reveal its relevance to the listener.
You do not have to come up with all kinds of original insight. If it is new, it is not true. You do not want to find anything in the Bible that no one else has ever found. We should always return to old, well-worn paths.
As you are digging into the text, just unpack what it says and deliver it to the people.
Have a Simple Outline
Fifth, I would also encourage you to have a simple outline. Whether it is three headings, four headings, or five headings, an outline helps you divide the passage. It is almost like taking a pie and cutting it up into different slices or pieces. It becomes much more manageable as you have an outline, and it keeps you on track. It prevents you from veering off and away from the text and going off on a long journey.
Structure is your friend. It is like the skeleton in your body that keeps everything in place.
Write Out Your Sermon
Sixth and finally, I would say to write a manuscript. Write out your sermon, and be very comfortable and well acquainted with your manuscript before you preach. Whether you take it to the pulpit or not, you have already given prior thought to what you would say. This process helps to cement the words in your head.
As you enter an exciting time for you and your ministry, rely on God to lead and guide each step. At the end of the day, the best way to learn is to jump into the deep end of the pool and start swimming. Begin this process week by week. As you enrich your understanding of the word of God, you will grow in your abilities to preach the word. God will use you in a great way as you trust Him for your continued growth.