Our good friend Michele e mailed me back to say, "I don’t buy that at all." she didn’t believe I got all my messages from a tape. So there is some clarification I need to make on this point.
In those early days, I used MacArthur's method of developing a message. I did listen to John’s tapes. I used to think that you just got up on Sunday Morning and ask the Lord for a sermon, and between home and church the Holy Spirit gave you one. Really, ask any good non- expositional preacher. Ask my best pastor friend DeWayne Prossor. Kidding about DeWayne That is not biblical preaching though. Charity said, "Charles you never believed that, don't tell Michele that." True, of course, but that is what many preachers would like you to think that they just get a message from the Holy Spirit, without much studying.
So why did you change your style of ministry and method of preaching?
As early as 1974 when I listened to John MacArthur’s tape from Ephesians 4:11-16, the principles of the text were planted in my mind. And now having gone to the Shepherd’s Conference, and reading the Walter Kaiser’s book "Toward An Exegetical Theology." The time was right.
Another reason for converting styles was this nagging feeling that this was the best way of conveying what God was really saying in His word to His believers. The whole idea of preaching was to tell the people what the Bible was saying about being saved, and living according to God’s purpose. I was preaching what I believed the Bible was saying about being saved and living holy lives. The only problem was, too often what I was preaching was what I believed the Bible was saying. But too often the passage of Scripture that I used had little or nothing to do with what I was preaching.. I was using more illustrations from life than I was saying what God was saying. I would come up with a sermon I believed would be a help to the people, and then I would try to find a passage of scripture that would fit the sermon.
Here is what Walter Kaiser, Jr said, "The listener is often not sure whether the word of hope being proclaimed is precisely that same Biblical word which should be connected to the passage being read." That is, what was being preached doesn’t sound like what they were reading in the passage of Scriptures. Kaiser points out "every sermon which aspires to be at once both Biblical and practical; it must be derived from an honest exegesis of the text and it must constantly be kept close to the text.
MacArthur said "the goal is to have men of God to proclaim the Word of God effectively, so that nonbelievers can be evangelized and believers can be equipped to do the work of the ministry." John said, "The only authority that a preacher has in his preaching , is the authority of the Word of God." I always believed what I had been preaching for some twenty years was from the Word of God.
John R.W. Stott pointed out "now everybody has his own opinion and his own convictions, and considers them just as good as the preacher’s." (Between Two Worlds) He pointed out, "‘to preach’ has come to mean to give advice in an offensive, dull, meddlesome manner." Many of the people who are sitting in the pew are saying - silently if not aloud - "who does he think he is? My opinion is just as good as the preacher’s." And you know what? That is precisely right.
When I preached, it was my opinion about what I believed the Bible was saying about sin. Example: My children shouldn’t go to the High School Senior Prom. It was my opinion that Becky should not wear blue jeans, to church or anytime. That poor girl did not go to her Senior Prom, nor did she wear blue jeans until she was out of high school. (Becky gave her permission for me to tell on myself.) Now tell me, what chapter and verse did I find that opinion in?
I had a lot of opinions about how to be born again, how to live a Christian life, and I was good in expressing those opinions, which I really believed to be Biblical. The only problem I saw that I had, was I couldn’t always find the text to go along with the opinion. Thus it seemed to be my opinion rather than the Bible’s command.
Thus, from the time I began teaching the Bible in its context of Scripture, my purpose was to the best of my ability to keep my opinions to myself while I was preaching. I said I tried.
What was the reaction of the church toward expositional preaching?
Our church’s associate pastor was very critical of the idea of studying extensively for a message. He was very faultfinding when I used notes from the pulpit. I preached from a full manuscript. He was a product of his training as well. Many church people believe a preacher should preach from his spirit and without notes, that is called "spirit anointed." I remember while in Seminary I was trying out to become pastor of a church. They found out I used notes and said, "we do not believe preachers should use notes."
So subsequently after six months in the Gospel of Matthew, Marvin thought the time had come that I leave the church and he had spoken to several members about that potentiality. I really believed we were going elsewhere the following week.
As all this dramatized out, the members of the church graciously were for us staying as Pastor. I think they did not want to lose Charity, but also I believe they were beginning to like hearing the teaching of the Word of God.
I explained to them why I was preaching from the Scriptures–why I was only trying to say what was in the text that was before them. I was trying to show them what the Word of God was saying, rather than what my opinion was. I think Michele, Allen and Toni, Beverly and Kay Alana and Christy and Mabel, Regina (to name a few who were there when I started to preach expositionally) really believed it. Thus we were able to preach the next Sunday. Amen..
Charles E. Whisnant
Charity F. Whisnant, proof reader