3 benefits of preaching exegetically in church revitalization

By Mark Clifton

Editor’s note: This post is excerpted from Mark Clifton and Kenneth Priest’s book, Rubicons of Revitalization.

During the past 40 years of ministry, I’ve come to believe with all my heart that the preaching of the Word of God effectually revitalizes a church. It’s not all you need to do in a revitalization, of course. You’ll also need to pray, evangelize, serve the community, make disciples, and everything else you’re reading about in this book. But all of that flows from effectual preaching of God’s Word.

Preaching can easily become a rubicon or a boundary on your church’s revitalization work. We limit the activity of God when we don’t preach effectively. Only God’s Word transforms lives. Only the gospel regenerates a heart and brings a dead man back to life. That’s why it’s so important we pay attention to these boundaries of preaching in revitalization so you’re not limiting God along the way.

The boundary of Bible Bingo

Early in my ministry, I was guilty of Bible Bingo. I’d pick and choose passages to preach from week to week, with little rhyme or reason. I preached whatever I felt like preaching. Usually that meant I’d focus on an easy text. I had no continuity. I’d bounce from one passage to another, sometimes even pulling stories and verses out of context to make my point.

I don’t want to admit how many times I preached an Old Testament passage by pulling out three or four verses out and building a whole sermon around them. Those sermons were completely disconnected from the context of what God was doing in the lives of the Hebrews.

It’s not just me though. I know pastors who each week pick a few verses out of nowhere and preach on them. That’s why I call it Bible Bingo. There’s no continuity in it.

If we want God to bring new life to our churches, we must stop preaching simple moralistic sermons by pulling a story out of context week after week, Instead, let’s preach all of God’s Word.

Let me be clear though. You don’t have to preach exegetically every Sunday. You may have a Sunday every once in awhile when you preach topically, but you should have enough of a base that your congregants know the difference.

You also don’t necessarily need to preach through entire books. For example, I don’t recommend you preach through the book of Romans all at once. You’d likely take three or four years to do that right. Instead, preach a few chapters of Romans, then a few Psalms, and then go back to Romans.

Preaching exegetically has three great benefits for churches in the revitalization process.

1. It will develop our preaching. It forces us to look at every text and not simply skip the tough ones. It makes us work harder as we preach, instead of just preaching the easy texts that everyone does. That hard work will make us better preachers over time.

2. Every problem in the church is revealed. When you preach through the whole Bible, God will shine a light on sin. No one can say you’re picking out sin just to single someone out. If you’ve been in a passage for three weeks and God uses Scripture to point out sin, it’s not the pastor — it’s God.

3. Your people will develop an ear for good preaching. You’re training your people to connect the theological dots. That’ll have a long-lasting impact upon their spiritual growth.

From the book Rubicons of Church Revitalization by Kenneth Priest and Mark Clifton.,

Published March 26, 2019

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Mark Clifton

Mark Clifton is the senior director of replanting at the North American Mission Board. Mark has served as a pastor, church planter, church revitalizer, mission strategist, coach and mentor to young leaders. He has planted and replanted numerous churches and has also served as a national and regional leader for church planting and missions. His experience includes serving as the lead mission strategist for the Kansas/Nebraska Southern Baptist Convention, leading church planting efforts in the regions of north metro Atlanta, Georgia, serving as a church planter in Montreal, Quebec, as a Southern Baptist National Church Planting Missionary for eastern Canada, and has lead Southern Baptist church planting projects west of the Mississippi. Mark has been planting, replanting and providing strategic mission leadership since 1978. Mark and his wife, Jill, live in Kansas City, Missouri and have two sons, two daughters-in-law and three grandsons.