Joe Needy comes to Capital City Church with a life full of issues he dealt with on a daily basis. After exploring a number of other therapeutic options and remedies, he decides to come and try Capital City. He comes in wanting help with a number of issues, such as:
- Finances. “I am in financial trouble. My credit card debts are through the roof, my kids are teenagers who will be going to college soon, my retirement account may be too low — plus we may need a bigger house. Can the Bible help me pull my finances together?”
- Marriage: “My wife and I have a good marriage. We take care of the children’s needs, but we need a stronger marriage. We’ve been arguing a lot lately over… you guessed it … finances. I need help with my marriage. Can this church help me with my marriage?”
- Meaning and purpose: “Where is my life going? That question has been nagging me for months now. I have a wife, two great kids, a house, a decent job — but for what? Can the Bible help me understand what it all means?”
Joe Needy has listed off a number of ‘felt needs’ he has. He feels the pinch of his finances. He feels the need to have a good marriage so their home can be a home of peace. He feels that his life may be going down a dead end street. Yet we are all fallen creatures, tainted by sin and self. What Joe may feel are his needs (and he may feel he will know what the solution is when he sees and hears it) may not be exactly what his true needs are.
Expository preaching aims to make the theme of the passage presented and make it the theme of the sermon. Impository preaching is preaching which seeks to take a theme for the sermon and impose it on the text. Here is where many preachers and congregations get in trouble.
Say I knew that the majority of my people would appreciate a sermon on how to handle your finances. They would come saying, “OK, this guy is going to help me blossom my portfolio, get out of debt, and make me financially stable.” Yet, as he is going through the Scriptures verse-by-verse, a principle arises addressing one’s greed. While Joe Needy may have his list of needs, God is speaking to the fact that greed and idolatry may be the problem with his finances. God may be speaking to the issue of how Joe may be “robbing” God with his neglect of the giving of “tithes and offerings” (Malachi 3:6-10).
Same with the marriage: you may wonder why your marriage may not be as you desire. Yet, the pastor preaches on Ephesians 5:3 about running away from sexual immorality in all its forms in word, thought, and action. You may not have connected the fact that watching Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives or Friends may be subtly warping your view of relationships with their brazen activity. Thus, your marriage would improve if you began preaching the Gospel to yourself in every area of life and remove yourself from certain situations that plant disobedient and lustful seeds in your mind and heart.
Again, this is taking us from what we deem ‘felt needs’ to ‘real needs’ which expository preaching can expose. Preachers are not simply there to expose the meaning of the text, but through the Spirit and his use of preaching the Word expose the sin that resides in the heart of man.