Is Expository preaching really a need?
Yesterday I read an article by Preaching magazine endorsing what the author called "topical exposition." In effect, he found verse by verse expositional preaching to be lacking in his own personal experience. Specifically he noted that such areas of doctrine as baptism, the Lord's supper, etc. need to be treated topically, or the congregation will suffer. His definition of topical exposition is, well, just topical preaching with a new name. Understand, I have no real problem with the occasional topical sermon, in fact I preach one every now and then myself (and then repent, immediately!). But a steady diet of topical messages will not develop a healthy church. Christians need to be exposed to the Word in its context. They need to understand the apostle's argument in the epistles as he moves from one paragraph to another. They need to grasp the larger themes of the NT books and how each paragraph and sentence fits into those themes.
Much of the superficiality and ineffectiveness of the modern (or postmodern if you wish) church can be blamed on the weak topical talks that pass for preaching. Most pastors justify this approach by claiming they are meeting the felt needs of the people. That if we can meet those needs then we can bring them to faith in Christ. I commend any effort to bring lost people to Christ. It's just that preaching to felt needs is to miss the mark. People who are lost, and even carnal Christians, have a convoluted understanding of what their needs truly are. They think their problems lie in their marriages, their jobs, their finances, or whatever; but in reality what they need is repentance and forgiveness. Preaching the Word of God in its context, line by line and verse by verse exposes our real problems and dispenses real help from the Gospel. Much of the amateur psychology that passes for preaching today is like putting a bandaide on a gunshot wound. It just doesn't help.
I hope that pastors will reclaim our grand duty to preach the Word. This involves a tremendous amount of hard work, prayer, and personal holiness; but it is the hope of the Word.