Topical Preaching

Topical Preaching

We have been looking at the subject of styles of preaching.  In the last post, we looked at an example pf preaching exegetically.  This week I want to turn our attention to topical preaching as a tool to prepare your message.  One thing you will find, if you read a lot of books about sermon making, is that there is a pretty negative view of eisegesis, a word that we defined a couple of posts ago.  Exegesis, you will remember, is beginning with the text of the Bible, and then drawing out the meaning that it had for the original readers.  Then you apply that meaning to your people.  Eisegesis, in contrast, is beginning outside of the Bible, with an idea, and then you go to Scripture to find proof texts to support your idea.

An Example

Here’s one example where topical preaching went wrong.  There is an old story about someone preaching a sermon about finding God’s will for your life.  The preacher encouraged his hearers to simply open the Bible and put a finger down on the opened page.  There, he said, you would find God’s will.  The preacher poorly compared this to casting the lot that is mentioned in the Old Testament.

One man decided to try it.  He opened the Bible, put his finger down at random, and then read the words, “Judas went out and hanged himself.”  He was pretty sure that this couldn’t be God’s will, so he decided to try it again.  Bible opened at random, closed eyes, he put his finger down again.  This time he read the words of Jesus, “Go, and do likewise.”  Now a little nervous, he decided to try one more time to find God’s will.  He opened the Bible, put his finger down, and read the words, “What thou doest, do quickly.”

The preacher who encouraged taking verses out of context did this hearer an injustice.

How do you do it?

So, how do you engage in topical preaching and avoid the pitfalls of taking verses out of context?   You seek to answer the question, “What does the Bible say about this topic?”  Then you research all the verses that are applicable, and answer the questions.

For instance, let’s say that you want to preach a sermon on keeping the sabbath.  A friend of mine, Dan Eisnor, recently preached a message on this topic.  This was his outline under the title, “What Is Sabbath?”

Sabbath is the first thing God called holy

Genesis 2:2-3 is the reference.  “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the creating that he had done.”

God created Sabbath as a gift for humanity

The reference here is to Mark 2:27-28, when Jesus is addressing the accusation that he encouraged his disciples to break the sabbath.  “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.”  The word “made” here describes crafting something of beauty with your hands.

Sabbath is a foretaste of eternal rest

For this point he read Hebrews 4;9-11: “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God, for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own world, just as God did from his.  Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest….”

Dan went on to describe the fact that through the Sabbath, we experience a foretaste of the glorious rest we will have in heaven.

Other points in the message were these:

What does God command us to do on the Sabbath?  Remember, Observe, and rest (Exodus 20:8, Deuteronomy 5:12, Deuteronomy 5:14-15).

What are the blessings of the Sabbath?   Not being ruined (Leviticus 19:30-31), not being ruled (I Corinthians 6:12), and Security (Deuteronomy 33:12)

Well-done topical preaching can be powerfully effective.  Just be sure you faithful to what the Bible really says.  If you want to explore this message more, here is a brief video from a professor of preaching named Jason Poznich on the subject of topical preaching.

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