I recently read an excerpt from Paul Wolfe’s My God Is True! which provides an encouraging reminder of the importance and power of patient, long-term faithfulness in preaching the Word. Wolfe encourages preachers not to seek to “wow” our hearers with something novel and life-changing every week, but instead to nourish people with line-upon-line exposition of the Word.
There are times when I am preaching through a book that I am struck by the timeliness of a certain message. Recently, for example, I preached on Jesus’ welcoming young children and correcting the disciples who tried to dispel them (Luke 18:15-17). The passage gave me the opportunity to encourage those who teach children—whether church volunteers, parents, or Christian school teachers—that their work is valued by Christ and eternally significant. The teachers at our Christian school needed that charge NOW, especially as they labor to exhaustion teaching during the COVID-19 quarantine. I was pleased by the providence that had me preaching “what’s next” and aligned it with “what’s needed.”
The shelf-life of expository preaching is timeless.
However, Wolfe’s challenge is liberating and refreshing. I don’t have to bear the pressure of preaching “just the right thing” for people every given Sunday. Sometimes (usually?) “what’s next” in my consecutive exposition of a text won’t address an immediate need for my hearers. Expository sermons aren’t a sanctified horoscope or fortune cookie, after all. But if I faithfully proclaim the Word, I am preparing my hearers for whatever they encounter, not only this week, but for years to come. The shelf-life of expository preaching is timeless.
Most weeks, you’re just going to show up and lay a single brick.
Years ago, I heard a seminary professor compare the ministry to masonry. Every week, I want to see a new wall erected. I want to see visible, measurable progress. And sometimes the Lord allows an observable “breakthrough.” But most weeks, the aged professor said, you’re just going to show up and lay a single brick. You’ll go home with a sense that nothing exciting has happened. But when you do this week after week, sermon after sermon, year after year, a wall does go up. A church is built. Lives are built.
Expository preaching requires patience. It’s a long-term investment. But make no mistake: God is working through His Word, even when we don’t see immediate results.