Preaching in American churches today takes many forms. Generally speaking, sermons can be categorized as topical, textual, or expositional (expository). Topical sermons begin with a topic and draw various passages of Scripture together of the same topic to build the sermon. Textual sermons begin with a single text of Scripture and launch into the message from there (example: 1 Corinthians 13 as the basis for a sermon on Christian love). Expository sermons also begin with a text/passage of Scripture, but do so within the broader context of an entire book. Expository sermons are verse-by-verse studies of a complete book of the Bible or large segment within a book.
The vast majority of the time, I preach expositionally through books of the Bible. The exceptions would be special services such as Christmas and Easter. This means that a series of sermons in the book of James, for example, would begin with James 1 and continue weekly until every verse in the book is preached and explained. For shorter books, this may only take a couple of months; for longer books, it could take years.
The benefits to this approach are:
- It is the most natural way to read and study the Bible.
- It is the best way to understand the Bible in context (both in its immediate context, and in the broader context of redemptive history).
- It guards the preacher against avoiding difficult portions of Scripture containing tough doctrines such as election/predestination or other “hot-button” topics like homosexuality, gossip, gender issues, etc.
- It protects the congregation from the preacher’s personal “soapbox.”
- It puts both the preacher and congregation in a position of submission to the biblical text.
- It ensures that the congregation will be spiritually nourished by the whole counsel of God.
Here is a good article by Albert Mohler on the importance of expository preaching.
I trust this short explanation helps!