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Why Don’t Preachers Have “Walk-Up” Music?

If I were in the Major Leagues (playing second base for the Dodgers, of course), the music I’d have playing as I stepped to the plate would be a sample from “Start a Riot” by DUCKWRTH and Shaboozey. The thought of 56,000 “rioting” fans at Chavez Ravine as I walked up to the plate, music blaring, is certainly exhilarating. And it wouldn’t seem at all inappropriate. After all, this is a sports event and the athletes on each team are the attraction. Walk-up music is not out-of-place at a professional baseball game because fans are there to cheer on the players.

But this is not the case for the preacher.

Preachers in the pulpit are not the attraction. Christ is, his word and worth. Therefore, we make every effort to deflect attention from ourselves while putting it on the Lord. This is a conclusion born out of two biblical realities: the nature of revelation and the preacher’s vocation.

THE NATURE OF REVELATION

When I talk about Christian preaching, I’m talking about expository preaching. What exactly is expository preaching? Contrary to what many evangelicals may believe, Haddon Robinson was certainly right when he stated that expository preaching is more a philosophy than a method.

Expository preaching at its core is more a philosophy than a method. Whether we can be called expositors starts with our purpose and with our honest answer to the question: “Do you, as a preacher, endeavor to bend your thought to the Scriptures, or do you use the Scriptures to support your thought?” 1Haddon Robinson, Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages (Baker Academic, 2013), 5.

The Christian preacher does not bend the Scriptures to make them say what we want them to say. The expositor submits all of his thoughts under the Scriptures. Any other approach to preaching puts our human minds in authority over the word of God. This the Christian preacher will not do.

As John Stott observed, expository preaching isn’t about style but substance. An expository preacher works to ensure that the content of every sermon is the Bible.

[Exposition] refers to the content of the sermon (biblical truth) rather than its style (a running commentary). To expound Scripture is to bring out of the text what is there and expose it to view. The expositor prizes open what appears to be closed, makes plain what is obscure, unravels what is knotted and unfolds what is tightly packed. The opposite of exposition is ‘imposition,’ which is to impose on the text what is not there. 2John Stott, Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today (Eerdmans, 2017), 125-126.

Biblical exposition, says Bryan Chapell, “binds the preacher and the people to the only source of true spiritual change . . . . expository preachers are committed to saying what God says.” 3Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon (Baker Academic, 2005), 30. The expository preacher’s ultimate goal is to communicate not his own opinions or philosophies or speculations, but rather to “expose” to his listeners the will of God as revealed in the Word of God. Therefore, the expositor makes the Bible central in preaching.

We are committed to the centrality of the Bible in preaching because of what it is, namely, revelation from and about God. This is, in part, what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Bible is more about God than it is about us. In the Bible God is revealing who he is, how he acts, what he demands of us, and where he is moving all of human history. The very nature of Scripture demands that we don’t see preachers like we do professional athletes. God is the attraction, not us.

THE PREACHER’S VOCATION

How should a preacher view himself? What is the essence of his vocation? To answer this question, consider 1 Corinthians 4:1, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”

When we see a Christian preacher, we should be seeing a servant and steward. Both of these descriptions undermine the centrality of self. A servant by definition is focused not on self but someone else. Likewise, a steward is a caretaker of something not his own. A Christian preacher is a servant of Christ and a steward of the Scriptures. And this must look like something in the pulpit.

Servants and stewards don’t create a preaching event where we are the main attraction. That is, our eloquence, our attire, our props cannot be what people come to see. The Christian comes to see Jesus, but oftentimes he is pushed aside as many a preacher says in one form or another, “Look at me!” In contrast, servants and stewards say, “Look at Christ! Behold your God!” Indeed, servants and stewards don’t design the pulpit around themselves, but in a way that points his listeners to God because “what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).

The sports world is full of attention-grabbing athletes. Whether it’s Alex Morgan sipping tea or Steph Curry shimmying or Bryce Harper with an epic bat flip, professional athletes scream “look at me!” And in some ways, we get it; that’s the nature of entertainment. But the nature of preaching is far different. The preacher has no walk-up music and no walk-off celebration because the preaching event is not about us, but God. To him be the glory.

References   [ + ]

1. Haddon Robinson, Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages (Baker Academic, 2013), 5.
2. John Stott, Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today (Eerdmans, 2017), 125-126.
3. Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon (Baker Academic, 2005), 30.
Filed under: Columns, Features, Pastorate, Preaching, Theology
Michael Pohlman

Michael Pohlman (PhD, Southern Seminary) is professor of Preaching and Pastoral Ministry and chair of the Department of Ministry and Proclamation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is founder and executive director of Some Pastors and Teachers.

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