Expositional preaching is applicational preaching. It has to be. The Scriptures itself demand application.
The epistle of James makes proverbial, what is obvious. We must not be hearers of the Word, only. We must be doers.
It’s not enough to exegete; we need to apply.
It’s not enough to listen; we must apply.
What good is faith without works? Not much.
What good is exposition without application? Not much.
On Sunday morning, your people can stay at home and read Martyn Lloyd-Jones. They can stay at home and read John Stott. They can stay at home and read John Piper. But they mustn’t! They must come and gather with the people of God and listen to the Word of God! And then they must apply that Word to their everyday lives. Preaching must not merely be a running commentary. Don’t give your people more reason to check out. Show them the relevance! Preach the application!
The preaching of the Word of God needs to be applied to the people of God, in their specific context. It’s your job to do this. It’s your job to do the hard work of exegeting the Word, and it’s also your job to help apply the Word.
How to do this? Let me suggest three principles.
First, plan on application being a a significant portion of every one of your sermons. Each sermon should have a large section of application and direction. Assume this will be the normative method of your preaching. Whether you sprinkle it throughout, or like the English Puritans, save it for the end, it makes no difference to me. The important principle is that you DO IT. Remember, it’s relatively easy to just produce a commentary of the passage. It’s easy to go through the mechanics of exegesis. It’s easy to drum out a word study. But it’s HARDER to take all that and translate that into action for the people of God, individually and corporately.
Second, make application for different contexts. As you are working through a passage, think of the context of the larger assembly. How should the Word of God shape us as a church? How can we, as a church, apply this? Also, think of application for the families. How will this passage shape the way Moms and Dads parent and raise and disciple their kids? How will this passage shape their marriages? Give them challenges. Give them ideas. Give them goals. Also, think of the individuals. How will this passage shape our prayer lives, or how we handle temptation? Think of the singles. Think of the lonely. Think of the elderly. Think of the man on the brink of leaving his wife. What are the principles that arise from the text, and how can we apply it? This is your job! Deliver.
Third, find application ideas from other resources. Laziness is a terrible sin of pastors. We live in a golden age of good material (and bad material!). Shame on us if we don’t do the hard work of mining. Not just mining the Word, but mining ideas for the application of the Word. Resources like preaching commentaries, sermons by credible preachers, and books can all be used. Don’t be a lazy preacher. Lazy preachers don’t apply…because it’s hard work. Be the kind of preacher (and pastor) who is a workman approved. Who doesn’t live in the ivory tower of academia and technical commentaries, but lives with the people. Shepherd the flock of God that is among you. Apply the Word.
Dave Anderson is a Pastor and Bible teacher at Littleton Bible Chapel. He is married to the lovely Lonnalee, and together they have three kids--Mollie, Ryle Ironside, and Georgia. Dave also is involved with Biblical Eldership Resources, a ministry that provides biblical resources for the practice of eldership (www.biblicaldership.com)