On Consecutive Exposition

“People have short attention spans. So you really do long series through books anymore. People will check out on you after four to six sermons.”

This authoritative claim is simply not true. People are hungry for the word of God. Consecutive exposition both satisfies people’s hunger for scripture and shapes it. Expository preaching is an acquired taste. Before people get it they don’t know what they are missing. But when they get it they don’t want anything else.

Consecutive exposition is not the only way to preach faithfully. Jesus did not preach that way. Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, did not preach consecutively through scripture. And I never heard my father do it growing up. Yet I contend that consecutive exposition – preaching through a book of the Bible from beginning to end – is the most faithful way to preach.

Many preachers reject consecutive exposition for various reasons But the main issue may simply be that it’s hard work. But the hard work of consecutive exposition is worth is for the following reasons.

It helps you to understand the word of God better. We encourage our people to read through the Bible, convinced that it is essential for their growth in Christ (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Even the Bible reading plans we use are organized to help us read through scripture. Why do we hesitate to study and preach this way? We rob ourselves when treat scripture as a topical reference guide. But it is to our benefit to follow the complete train of thought of a scripture in its context, rather than lifting selected verses at our discretion.

It models contextual Bible study for the congregation. We study to preach. We also model study as we preach. The way we handle scripture in the pulpit exemplifies how to study the Bible, for good or bad. A constant diet of random scriptures gives the wrong impression about how to approach scripture. There is nothing wrong with looking to the Bible for answers to topics. But you should also let the Bible raise the questions through texts. Consecutive exposition is a platform to demonstrate proper Bible interpretation.

It keeps you from overemphasizing your favorite topics. We all have particular books of the Bible we enjoy preaching. We gravitate toward select doctrines. Certain subjects light our fire. But these must not be the extent of the menu we feed our people. We must declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:26-27). Consecutive exposition ensures your congregation is properly exposed to the unfamiliar texts, obscure personalities, and unpopular truths of the Bible they need to hear.

It demonstrates the sufficiency of scripture. The world continues to does not hold to the inspiration of scripture. But the church has laid aside the sufficiency of scripture. We lack a true confidence in the word of God. We almost apologize for it, constantly seeking to “make it relevant.” But if scripture is not inherently relevant, you cannot make it so. Preaching through a book of the Bible can show the organic relevance of scripture to your congregation as you tackle neglected texts that teach life-changing truths.

It forces you to address difficult subjects and passages. Without consecutive exposition, there are some things we will never preach on. We avoid some texts. And we never think to discuss certain subjects. But working through a book of the Bible causes you to cover neglected but important truths. It also protects you from the accusation that you are meddling in your sermons. If a difficult word is preached, your defense is that you were only working with the text that was in front of you.

It makes it easy to plan your preaching in advance. How can you be consistent and effective on Sunday morning if you don’t know what you are going to preach on until Thursday? You need to have a plan that allows you to get an early start, or even work ahead. Consecutive preaching is tailored for this. Start by outlining the book for preaching. Then move on to the next text from week to week. If you are moved to preach something else, do it. Then get back to your exposition. And take advantage of the extra time having a preaching schedule gives you.

It is a practical way to build an expositors library. If you are a new pastor, you probably cannot afford to aggressively build your library. You have to do it slowly and carefully. In that regard, jumping from text to text can be expensive, if you try to secure helpful research tools. But as you preach through a book, you can select the best available works on the book. Work through them as you preach the book. And wait to secure other materials when preparation for the next series requires it.

What others benefits of consecutive exposition would you give? Or what are you objections to it? Join the conversation in the comments section. 

Related Resources: 

On Sermon Preparation

On Writing Sermon Manuscripts

On Preaching Without Notes

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • jjbrock

    Great article pastor…!

  • Dan Sudfeld

    Thank you for compiling that list. Really helpful.

  • Mark Dawes

    Amen!!!

  • DeaconDJ

    I’m not a carpenter, but I think Pastor just nailed
    it on every front.

    • http://www.hbcharlesjr.com/ H.B. Charles Jr.

      Thanks DJ.

  • Lance Mann

    Great article HB! In my own ministry, I MUST be in a consecutive series either a book, chapter or theme. If I’m not in a series I am in for a miserable week of preparation. Not because of the content or lack thereof, but I have conditioned myself since the beginning of my pastoral ministry, thanks to Joe Carter, to give the congregation a consistent diet of the Word based solely on where The Lord leads me. Thanks for your example of faithful exposition through sermon series.

    • http://www.hbcharlesjr.com/ H.B. Charles Jr.

      Thanks brother. You know I understand. A consecutive series eases the pressures of weekly preparation. And it guides your study from week to week. Stay with it, Lance!

  • http://www.facebook.com/dawn.washington2 Dawn Washington

    In my lifetime, I have experience an array of preaching styles and techniques. I affirm consecutive exposition with a caveat. Because ‘home’ for me is in a reformed conservative environment, we can be guilty of a lack of prayerful consideration at times. Sermonic presentations and preparations can become like clockwork because we know what’s next. Preaching, whose end is spiritual maturation, can become an intellectual exercise of theological rigor. So I agree for all of the valuable reasons outlined. However, I would admonish every preacher to pray continually and don’t be afraid to “pause” if divinely led to do so. Great article!

    • http://www.hbcharlesjr.com/ H.B. Charles Jr.

      Good point, Dawn.

  • http://twitter.com/CWhiteSr Craig White

    Wow..! Excellent discussion Pastor..! I agree completely, even though I have had the fear of losing the attention of listeners. The truth is they are more engaged when that can see where you are headed, run down the road, look back and say, “come on Pastor”..!

    I am also grateful for the challenging comments on disciplined preparation time. I am presently using the model found in Paul Scott Wilson’s book entitled, “The Fiur Pages of the Sermon”. With out question it lends itself to more faithful expository preaching.

    • http://www.hbcharlesjr.com/ H.B. Charles Jr.

      Thanks White. I’ll check out Wilson’s book.

  • Wayne Sage

    Excellent, really excellent. Thank you.