Monday, March 09, 2009

Andy Stanley's thoughts on exegetical preaching

Ed Stetzer recently interviewed Andy Stanley here. One question he asked was:

What do you think about preaching verse-by-verse messages through books of the Bible?

Stanley's answer:
"Guys that preach verse-by-verse through books of the Bible--that is just cheating. It's cheating because that would be easy, first of all. That isn't how you grow people. No one in the Scripture modeled that. There's not one example of that.

All Scripture is equally inspired, but not all Scripture is equally applicable or relevant to every stage of life. My challenge is to read culture and to read an audience and ask: What is the felt need? Or perhaps what is more important, what is an unfelt need they need to feel that I can address? Because if they don't feel it, then they won't address it."
Although I believe Andy is doing some good things in his ministry, I think he is entirely wrong on this point.

(HT:Matt Adair)


  1. "All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." - 2 Timothy 3:16-17

    Speaking to the Sadducees, Jesus rebukes them saying "...'You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.'" - Matthew 22:29

    How did Jesus battle temptation from the King of Tempters? "But he answered, 'It is written, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes form the mouth of God."'" - Matthew 4:4

    "And Paul went in , as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures" - Acts 17:2

    "Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed..." - Acts 17:11-12a

    "for [Apollos] powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus." - Acts 18:28

    "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. - Romans 15:4
    -the Scriptures light the fire of hope.

    "But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also." - Acts 15:35

    "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me" - John 5:39
    - reading the Scriptures for the sake of "knowledge" is not profitable (as we can observe from the Jews), but reading the Scriptures to see that they "bear witness" about Jesus is without value!

  2. I disagree with Stanley as well. The Bible isn't about us. It's about our Lord and His supreme worth. All preaching should be about Him and for Him. Therefore, any text in any chapter of the Bible applies to everyone.

  3. I understand what you're saying (as well as those who left comments), but as a member of North Point, I'm going to have to stand up for my pastor :)

    Andy just finished the series titled He's Still Got the Whole World in His Hands. It's a timely series given the uncertainty surrounding us. I would have to say that the scripture taught was probably MORE USEFUL for those whose "ladders" are leaning on such things as wealth rather than God.

  4. Clay
    Thanks for the letting Scripture speak.

    good word. I agree

    A special thanks for keeping things balanced. I know God has blessed his ministry in many ways and is communicating truth to people.

  5. No one is saying that topical preaching is better than verse by verse exegesis, or vice versa. Some pastors switch back and forth sometimes even in the same sermon.

    My pastor did a three part topical series about marriage and it was okay, not as good as when he preaches from text. And his sermon on singleness was aweful, which was surprising because he is pretty gifted as a preacher and a theologian. We all were glad when he started to preach on Leviticus.

    But the attitude that some verses apply to certain people and others don't is, well, wrong in my thinking. Maybe it is not what he meant, maybe he meant something else. It's hard to tell from the interveiw, actually.

    Like, it is possible that some people have a specific command in scripture that they are convicted about not following, where someone else is not struggling with that particular sin In the light that we are all in different places, yes, I see what Stanley is saying. Maybe.

  6. I think it is a subtly self-centered or man-centered basis that leads us to despise exegetical preaching. If we believe the task is to "read the times" and then apply an appropriate answer from the whole scope Scripture, we must believe that the fundamental need lies in a smart use of Scripture. We've assumed a role that's not ours; we've assumed we have something to offer, something to say. (And sometimes there might be good reason for that approach - in writing a book, in giving a specific seminar, teaching a class, or just in discussion with friends, etc.)

    But if this approach is taken in the time slot traditionally assigned to "preaching the Word" then we forfeit (at least one opportunity for) what we need most of all: to hear from God Himself. Do we trust in our own insight and resourceful citing of Scripture (almost as a tool to support our message)? Or do we believe, whatever our current situations might be, that what we need more than anything else is to see and treasure Christ? If we're trusting in Him - not in ourselves, at some level - then we'll want to hear His Word, to get on His 'agenda,' to absorb His perspective, even if to do that I am required to put my personal issues on the back-burner and trust that He cares for me.

    I would not think that a strictly verse-by-verse approach is always necessarily called for. Of course, some consideration for the particular audience and thoughtful selection of the Word is required - essentially the same reasons that we have services in English instead of Latin or Greek or Hebrew. So, I definitely think that pastors must thoughtfully consider their congregation's particular need and should responsibly seek to bring the Word to them.

    And I would be very comfortable giving Andy Stanley the benefit of the doubt - that he's doing just that. But underneath whatever particular approach we take there should be a fundamental trust in God's Word, not our own. Our mentality should be that people need to hear from God - and not necessarily on the topics they would choose - or that we would choose for them. In some respects, the very thing we need is to be removed from our own perspective, to be immersed in a Biblical perspective. Then, when we return to the everyday practical concerns, we'll see them more accurately. And we'll have a high view of Christ's glory, and if we embrace Him, we'll have what we essentially need in any setting.

    Consider what Dietrich Bonhoeffer says about reading the Psalms: "We also ought not to select Psalms at our own discretion, thinking that we know better what we ought to pray than does God himself. To do that is to dishonor the prayer-book of the Bible" (Psalms, p.26).