Rhetoric & Homiletics: He Is Not Expositional! He Is Too! He Is Not!

questions 1 Expositional Preacher? Maybe . . . Maybe Not ! 

I have heard it said, not only about various preachers — and by preachers about themselves . . . .

He IS / He IS NOT an expositional preacher.”
“I believe in and am committed to expositional preaching!”

I can’t recall anyone saying . . . . “I don’t believe in or practice expositional preaching!


Who doesn’t believe that they are expositional?
But you would agree, believing that one is expositional, does not mean they are!

I have often heard it said that Andy Stanley is not an expositional preacher.

What makes one expositional?
Why doesn’t Andy Stanley qualify in the thinking of some?

I think the answer to the first question will address the second question.

What makes one an expositional preacher?

#1) To be expositional, you have to expose what the text is actually saying.

#2) Expostionally preaching begins in the “study” of the passage and in the “study.”

#3) Understanding what the PASSAGE teaches is foundational.

#4) Exposition in the pulpit is different from exposition in the study. I do not have to cover all the steps, details, word studies, cross-references, commentaries, etc. I went through in the study.

#5) “Expositional Preaching” means that I make sure that the biblical truth I am teaching from this-or-that passage is found in that passage — because I have ascertained that in my study of the passage.

#6) The biblical truth which is found in that passage and which one is focused on, is specific-to-that-passage.

For Instance: While there are various passages which speak about being a good steward, the “specificity-of-a-truth’s-expression” when preaching from the parable of the shrewd steward (Luke 16) is different from the “specificity-of-a-truth’s-expression” when preaching from the parable of the around-the-clock-vineyard workers (Matthew 20).

I chose two parables to avoid getting into different genre objections. Likewise, two parallel passages in the Gospel accounts have “different-variations-of-a-specific-truth.” Both are not inherently designed by the Gospel writer to make the same point (while they may be similar and at times indeed identical). They are contextually different for a reason.

The biblical truth or principle will be stated differently when preaching from “this” passage, rather than “that” passage — while similar in its broad theme “stewardship.”

 Both are not merely teaching that. . . . “We ought to be and need to be good stewards.” Far too broad in its statement. That is what ends up happening when one does not expose the truth/principle specific-to-a-passage — they all blurr together.


Is this-or-that person an expositional preacher?
Are you actually expositional in your preaching?

The answers are NOT based on whether you have done your homework in “the study,” and/or whether you know what the passage is actually teaching.

The answers are NOT found in whether you bring the audience through all the steps you went through in your study of the Scriptures.

The answers are found in whether or not you have PREACHED what the passage teaches.

Just because some, like Andy Stanley, do not bring the audience through (I might say in regards to some preachers — “drag the audience through”) all the details of “the study,” does not mean that one does not know what the passage teachers nor that he is not exposing the listeners to the biblical truth or principle found specifically within that passage of Scripture.

There is a difference between the “kitchen” and the “dining room” — between the work done in the kitchen, and the serving of the meal in the dining room. A lot is unknown to those enjoying the meal, but the fruit of the kitchen is on full display in the dining room.

Explaining all that was done in the kitchen (though some kitchen elements may help one to enjoy the meal), does not make one an “Expositional Preacher.”

 If you have failed to grasp, develop, highlight, and drive home the focal truth or principle of the passage, you have missed the purpose of preaching. You may have even missed the difference between the study and the pulpit.


Let me end this section with this reflection. 

When . . . .

  • The central truth of a passage

  • The truth-or-principle which is being exposed

  • The BigIdea of a passage of Scripture

  • The truth-or-principle specific to that passage

. . . . is uncovered, is seen as taught in that passage, and/or is exposed to the audience’s eyes, and is concisely stated — it changes lives.

It is as the “BigIdea” of the passage is identified (exposed) in a sermon and stated in a concise way, that it taunts the mind and heart.

It is when the “BigIdea” of the passage is exposed — and simply and clearly stated — that the truth of the passage begins pestering a person’s mind and heart to live in light of that truth or principle.

The sermon (and preaching) is designed to build to, surround, and drive that truth so that it resonates and aggravates the mind long after the whole of the sermon is forgotten.

Below is an example of setting up a biblical truth-or-principle which is repeatedly found in the Scriptures, and a “truth-specific-to-the passages which will linger long after much of the sermon content is forgotten.


It is GOOD — wish I had come up with it!


Transcript Of The Sermon’s Introduction
The Introduction Of The BigIdea


Now, you may be familiar with this name — Admiral Jim Stockdale — Admiral Jim Stockdale.

Admiral Jim Stockdale actually ran for Vice President
back in the ’90s but what he’s most famous for
was he was a POW during the Vietnam War.

He was actually a Vice Admiral in the Navy.
And he was the highest-ranking, this is amazing,
he was the highest-ranking United States, military officer
to be imprisoned in the Hanoi Hilton
prisoner-of-war camp during the Vietnam War.

In fact, he was a POW for eight years.
He was tortured over 20 times
and one of the reasons he was tortured,
he refused to participate in
the North Vietnamese propaganda machine.

He actually took a razor and disfigured his own face
o they would not put him on camera.

Well, years later, after he was out
and accomplished some extraordinary things,

Jim Collins interviewed him when he was writing
his book “Good to Great,” some of you have read that book.

And in the interview, of course,
Jim Collins asked the question that we would all ask.

He said, “How in the world did you survive
“eight years in a POW camp?”

And here’s what he said.

He said, “I never lost faith in the end of the story.”

“I never lost faith in the end of the story.”

This is such a powerful statement to me.
I thought about just reading this and then we could just close in prayer.

This is such an extraordinary, extraordinary statement.
But he continues and he explains.

He said the following:

I never doubted not only that I would get out,
but also that I would prevail in the end
and turn the experience into
the defining event of my life,
which, in retrospect, I would not trade.

 That’s amazing.

And then, Jim Collins asked him this question.

He said, “Well, you made it out, tell me about the people who didn’t make it out.
Who didn’t make it out?”

 And his answer surprised everybody.

 He said, “Oh, that’s easy, the optimists.”

 The optimists.

 Jim said, “What do you mean by optimists?”

And here’s what he said.

 He said, “The optimists were the ones who said,
‘Well, we’re gonna be out by Christmas.’

“And Christmas would come and Christmas would go.”
And then, “Then they’d say,

 “‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’

“And Easter would come, and Easter would go.

 “And then Thanksgiving,

“and then it would be Christmas again.”

And he went on to say this,

 “Those men died of a broken heart.”

 And then he turned to Jim Collins.

 He said, “What I’m about to say is so very important.

“What I’m about to say next — is the lesson to take away from all of this.”

 Here’s what he said . . . .

 He said, “You must never confuse faith — “that you will prevail in the end

 You must never confuse faith — that you will prevail in the end, — “which you can never afford to lose.”

 You can never afford to lose that — you are gonna prevail in the end.

 But you can’t confuse that kind of confidence in faith – “with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts “of your current reality, whatever that might be.”

Now, this statement is sometimes referred to as the Stockdale Paradox.

 And you know what a paradox is,
a paradox is a statement that, on the surface,
doesn’t seem to make any sense
and then you explore it further
and it actually proves to be true.

 And the paradox that he’s pointing to,
the reason this is called a paradox
is the paradox is to never give up hope
but never deceive yourself about current reality.

You never give up hope but at the same time
you don’t refuse to face the things
that you don’t wanna face,
the things that would cause you to possibly lose hope.

You hold both of them.

 You never give up hope and you never deceive yourself about current reality.



This introduction is the “set-up” of that biblical truth-or-principle, which is then “exposed” by his exposition of the passage which drives home that truth which is “specific-to-the-passage.”

Do I dare suggest that you too might never forget the BigIdea!


Never lose faith in the end of the story.





If you would like to hear the rest of the sermon, you can click on this link . . . .

AND Click Here For Part Two (–>tomorrow) where I further deconstruct how Andy Stanley continues to surround and drive his BigIdea throughout the message — how Andy Stanley understands the difference between the kitchen and the dining room.


P.S. Andy Stanley is as much of an expositional preacher than any others, and more than those who think that the kitchen is the dining room!


That might be a sticky idea — “the kitchen or the dining room.”

It is also a great “analogical image.”




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