I mentioned in the comments of my first post that I had read Alfred P. Gibbs’ The Preacher and His Preaching for my pulpit speech class in college. If you would have asked me why we read that book in college, I would have replied that the teacher must have needed a textbook and some way to give us some work to do (I honestly felt it was just busywork). About six months ago, while browsing the internet, I read a post that referred to Alfred Gibbs and his categorization of sermons. I thought it was interesting, but it still took me months to figure out that I had read about all these things before — so much for my excellent memory! I would like to take my next few posts to summarize Gibbs’ descriptions and instructions concerning five types of sermons.
The Expository Sermon
“Of all the types of sermons this, though perhaps the most difficult, is the very best.” Exposition is putting on display the message of a passage of scripture. The main theme and all the supporting points come from a particular passage of Scripture. In an expository sermon all the points come from the passage and all of the passage is represented in the sermon. Expository sermons have been likened to a wheel. The hub is the main point; the spokes are the contributing thoughts; and (I would add) the outer wheel is the application (where the rubber meets the road).
There are seven advantages of expository sermons:
- It puts supreme emphasis on the Word of God itself.
- It makes for a broad knowledge of the Scriptures as a whole.
- It provides an opportunity for speaking on many passages of Scripture which would otherwise be neglected.
- It will also make for variety in the ministry of the Word.
- It enables the preacher to deal with current evils.
- It will deliver the preacher from the tendency to a fanciful use, or abuse of isolated texts.
- It will furnish the preacher with enough material for a lifetime of preaching.
The danger of an expository sermon is that it may degenerate into many small sermonettes that have no controlling theme. Be careful not to have too many sermons inside your sermon. Also note that the expository sermon is not just commenting on the verses of a passage. Commenting goes verse-by-verse and makes application along the way. Exposition studies the passage and brings its full meaning out to the open.
The Textual Sermon
This sermon is developed by taking one verse, several verses with the same words, or even a part of a verse as the text. The theme of the verse is discovered, analyzed, divided, and expounded. This is done in much the same was as for an expositional message only the focus is on a verse and not a passage.
There are four advantages to textual sermons:
- The actual words of Scripture are brought before the people.
- A short text is more easily retained by an audience.
- It makes for variety in preaching.
- It is good sometimes to take a number of different verses which contain the same word or thought.
Textual sermons do not present the Bible as a whole. This is a disadvantage of this type of sermon. A preacher can tend to wear out his audience by always selecting texts that are on a favorite topic.
In my opinion, there is not a type of sermon that is more biblical than another (as long as it is biblical in the first place!). Of the five that I will present, all are good and all should be used. In order to preach the Word comprehensively, all must be utilized.