How to Avoid the Dangers of Topical Preaching

There is a big debate in preaching circles. Expository preaching versus Topical preaching. If someone falls in the first camp they decry the use of topical preaching and say “well it’s shallow and results in the preacher forming an opinion first and then going to God’s word to find support second”. Those in the topical camp say “well modern audiences just do not have the ability to sit through a series on a whole book of the Bible and they need preaching directly relating to their various life topics.

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The thing is neither one of these is the right way to preach. In fact expository preaching can be topical and topical preaching can be expository. I do not believe  they have to be put  into separate categories.

For instance: right now I am preaching through the book of Proverbs. The great thing about this book is I can go through Proverbs as well as address some topical life needs my congregation is dealing with. This is the best of both worlds.

Right now I want to look at how to avoid the dangers of topical preaching. Next week we’ll look at the dangers of only doing expository preaching.

So the point of expository preaching is  to carefully study a text and then bring out the original meaning the Biblical author had.

My question to you is: why can’t topical preaching  do this? It can if we avoid  these things:

1. Sticking to Our Preconceived Notions No Matter What We Find

I know that as a preacher if I find a topic I feel I need to address in a sermon I usually already have an opinion on that topic. But this can be dangerous because then I can just figure out the topic I want to preach on, type into Google “the Bible on trust” or look in a concordance or Bible dictionary for the best passage to support my opinion then build my sermon off of that. All this can be done without any careful, exegetical study on the exact passage or passages I am using.

This could even cause people to throw out a new idea or opinion they find in the text, merely because they did not want to do the extra work and study.

2. Repeating the same topical studies over and over again

Unfortunately, I see this a lot in churches and with preachers. They like to speak on the same “life topics” over and over again. I get the temptation. But the Bible is broad and addressees many themes, issues, and people. Expand your horizons.

3. Ignoring the stickier parts of the Bible

Many times  when topical preaching is employed the parts of the Bible that are messy and not as clean as “life topics”. But the Bible is filled with stories and people that were not perfect. Let’s stretch ourselves out and preach these things as well.

Topical preaching is and can be very effective. We just have to be careful with it just like anything else.

Part two coming soon! How to Avoid the Dangers of Expository Preaching 

Written by Joe Hoagland

Joe Hoagland

Joe is a pastor at Grape Grove Church of Christ in Jamestown, Ohio. He is newly married to his awesome wife Jenna and together they have 2 spoiled dogs and a cat.

He loves to lead people to Jesus and preach God's word.

You can often times find Joe hiking, camping, writing, reading, or enjoying technology.