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What Kind of Preacher are We Looking for at Grace Bible?

Searching for our next senior pastor means asking the question, “what kind of preacher are we looking for?” There are many different answers that can be given to this question, including many good answers, but that makes it difficult for us as a search team and as a church to get on the same page as to what we are looking for.
The goal of this article is to help us clarify what kind of preacher we are looking for in a way that draws biblical lines regarding sermon substance, yet intentionally leaves room for the different personalities and stylistic nuances that God may bring to us as we search for our next lead pastor.
At Grace Bible, we aim to be both gracious and biblical. This leads us to drawing hard lines on matters of sermon substance while recognizing a both/and continuum on matters of sermon style.

SERMON SUBSTANCE

No two preachers are the same, but all must preach from the same book. Grace Bible Church believes firmly in the inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of the Bible and this belief has led us to value expositional (or exegetical) preaching. Within biblical, evangelical Christianity there are numerous definitions of expositional preaching.1 Some definitions are broader and leave room for stylistic differences whereas some definitions are narrower and delineate stylistic preferences, but the main thrust of expositional preaching boils down to this: it is preaching that derives its authority from God’s Word.
“The main thrust of expositional preaching boils down to this: it is preaching that derives its authority from God’s Word.”
This happens when a preacher is devoted to using exegesis (pulling out the meaning of a text) in the study rather than eisegesis (reading one’s own ideas into the meaning of the text). Exegesis is important because the Bible commands pastors not to preach just anything, but to “preach the Word” (2 Tim 4:2) and to “give the sense” of the authoritative text (Neh. 8:8, 2 Tim 3:16-17). As we look to hire a pastor, it is clear that the substance of his sermons must derive its authority from the Bible through exegesis. Thus, we draw hard lines on matters of sermon substance, and in this first chart below only the “Expositional Preaching” category is acceptable.
  

SERMON STYLE

But what does expositional preaching look like practically? Answering this question brings us to matters of sermon style. Some would suggest that practically it looks like Paul’s style of preaching. Others might suggest that it looks like Peter’s preaching. Still others might suggest that James was the model preacher. So, who should our pastor outline like? Who should our pastor dress like? Who should our pastor sound like? Paul, Peter, or James – or maybe John? Although the Bible is clear about sermon substance, it intentionally leaves room for differences in sermon style.
“Although the Bible is clear about sermon substance, it intentionally leaves room for differences in sermon style.”
So, what style of sermon are we looking for in our next preaching pastor? To answer that question, I have compiled a number of different categories from our reading as a search team and then paired these categories into what can often be seen as either/or differences. But since we are talking about sermon style here, none of these paired categories exist as true either/or dichotomies but instead function along a both/and continuum. In the chart below, both left and right categories are acceptable. However, in between these two categories is where we aim our stylistic focus at Grace Bible. First, glance at the chart, then keep reading for an explanation of the categories and our church’s focus in each pairing.
One Main Passage and Multiple Main Passages
Sermons from one main passage of Scripture and sermons from multiple main passages of Scripture can both be exegetical (deriving their authority from the Bible through exegesis). There are times when a sermon can be preached best by using multiple main passages. However, at Grace Bible you can generally expect to hear a sermon preached verse by verse through one main passage.

Book Series and Topical Series
Regularly preaching through books of the Bible (verse by verse) can add extra emphasis to the context of a passage and helps preachers to engage the whole counsel of God. Likewise, a topical sermon series can be beneficial in addressing specific needs in a church community, specific seasons like advent, and specific matters of theology. Thus, at Grace we preach through books of the Bible regularly while also preaching through topics intentionally.

Knowledge and Life Application
Paul says that he wrote Romans, arguably the most theological book of the Bible, in order to bring about “the obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5) – theological knowledge and obedient life application should always go together. Knowledge of the ancient Words and contemporary application of them must be combined.

The Results of Exegesis and The Work of Exegesis
In math class there are some assignments where you simply give the right answer and there are other assignments where you have to get the right answer and show your work. In preaching, we have established that the “right answer” (the sermon) always results from the work of exegesis (the work the pastor does in the study, parsing Greek verbs, working the passage out in its historical, grammatical context, etc.). Thus, the results of exegesis are shared in every sermon. Often it is also helpful for the pastor to intentionally share parts of the work behind that right answer to further support a point or teach the congregation further about the exegetical process.

Believer and Unbeliever
Sunday morning services should be for believers, and that is our emphasis at Grace Bible. However, we ought to be prayerfully and intentionally mindful of unbelievers in the room as we aim to make both more and better disciples (Eph 4:11-12, 1 Cor 14:24-25).

Encouragement and Rebuke
These categories have to do with the tone of the preacher. These are not the only two needed tones, but it is helpful to note that preachers are to encourage and to rebuke, to instruct and to correct, to “comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable” (Rom 15:4, 2 Tim 4:2).

Humble and Authoritative
Dealing with tone again, the pastor should preach from both the authority of the Word and the humility of being human (2 Tim 3:16, 2 Cor 12:7). As G.K. Chesterton put it, “A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth.”

SERMON AUDIENCE

Hopefully these charts can aide us as a church in being clear about sermon substance and being mindful of our general focus in sermon style, all while leaving room for the different personalities and stylistic nuances that God may bring to us in our next pastoral candidate.

I close this article by encouraging you to review the charts below one more time, praying that God would start working in our hearts even now to prepare us to eagerly receive his Word from whoever our next pastor will be. A wise man once told me: “maturity is the ability to love God, love others, and love his Word more after every sermon you hear, no matter who is preaching it.”

REVIEW

In brief summary of the two charts, Grace Bible Church is looking for an expositional preacher who generally preaches verse by verse from one main passage of Scripture, both regularly taking us through books of the Bible and intentionally pastoring us through topical series as he applies Scripture to our lives.
Chart #1: Sermon Substance
  • We should draw hard lines on matters of sermon substance.
  • Only the “Expositional Preaching” category is acceptable in this chart.
Chart #2: Sermon Style
  • We should recognize a both/and continuum on matters of sermon style.
  • Both left and right categories are acceptable, and the column between these two categories is where we aim our stylistic focus at Grace Bible.








1For examples of various definitions of expository preaching: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/erik-raymond/what-is-expository-preaching/
2I borrowed this category (and the idea for this article’s approach) from my childhood pastor, Mark Vroegop, in his article on worship. Read it here: https://cpcresources.net/the-both-of-worship/.

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1 Comment


Nannette - April 16th, 2021 at 9:35am

Thank you Joe for this excellent article. The preaching I've received from Pastor Dave, the elders, yourself and now the media tab on the Grace Bible app have been excellent, timely, bringing conviction, encouragement and confirmation. Father God has such good plans for His church and I'm praying with joy for the pastor He's sending us. Blessings!