Expositional Preaching Crosses Cultural Boundaries

thabiti anyabwile

Recently, I posted some reflections on preaching in the African-American church.

Yesterday, I listened to Thabiti Anyabwile’s talk on expositional preaching in non-white contexts (you can find the audio here).  Late in the talk, he broadened non-white to “subcultural.”  He said that there is a conception that expositional preaching (where the preacher focuses on explaining the text) is often thought of as a white or socially elite way to preach, whereas the distinctive emotionalism of preaching in the black church (or the hwyl in the Welsh church that Martin Lloyd-Jones refused to imitate) is thought to preclude expositional preaching.

Anyabwile, an African American who now pastors in the Caribbean, used the example of the reading and explanation of the Law in Nehemiah 8 as proof that expositional preaching is not “white,” for it moved the Jews who had returned from exile to observe their faith.  Instead, he argued, the exposition of the Word of God is part of the culture of the “new humanity,” the community of people from all nations redeemed in Christ.

A couple of other points:

  • Anyabwile did not argue for a lack of emotion in preaching.  In fact, he was quite passionate about his subject.  He argued instead that the goal of preaching is never to get people excited, but to help them understand the text.  This often means appealing to people’s emotions and helping them see the relevance of the sermon, but nothing should override the ultimate goal of understanding.
  • He said that any subculture can impose wrong expectations on preaching.  Some people demand to hear political sermons, while others want to hear “moral, therapeutic” sermons that focus on simply moral improvement.  All of these subcultures need expositional preaching.

© 2009, Scott Kistler. All rights reserved.

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