What Kind of Preaching?

Hughes Oliphant Old, in volume 1 of his history on preaching, gives us five kinds of preaching that have been more or less dominant in the history of the church: expository preaching, evangelistic preaching, catechetical preaching, festal preaching, and prophetic preaching.

The definitions of these different types of preaching are helpful. Expository preaching is “the systematic explanation of Scripture done on a week-by-week, or even day-by-day, basis at the regular meeting of the congregation” (9). He argues that the lectio continua method (picking up the next week where the previous week left off) is the purest form (10), but there have been other methods, such as Spurgeon.

The second kind of preaching is evangelistic, which, “in its more proper sense announces that the time is fulfilled; the time has come. Much of the preaching of the prophets was the preaching of repentance” (11). This kind of preaching does not usually focus on a particular text. He argues that Jesus models both of the first two kinds of preaching (11).

The third kind is catechetical, which “is by its very nature systematic,” and “assumes that those to whom the preaching is addressed have made the basic commitment to follow Christ and the Christian way of life. Catechetical preaching therefore outlines basic Christian teaching, often by explaining the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the sacraments” (13).

Festal preaching is preaching based on the feast days of the church. The Reformed church mostly abandoned this form of preaching.

Prophetic preaching assumes that “God often has a particular word for a particular time and a particular place” (16). Of course, we do not wish to state that God is continuing His revelation. Think of this kind of preaching as reacting to the current situation in the world or in the community.

I believe the minister of the Word needs to be fundamentally an expository preacher with elements of most of the other kinds thrown in regularly and in some ways constantly. For example, in the weekly exposition, he will need to evangelize and to say that the time for salvation is now. Old did a great job of delineating the various kinds of preaching. However, he forgot to mention that these categories can be somewhat fluid. The expository preacher also needs to explain Christian doctrine regularly in his preaching, and also needs to address the current needs of the community and the world (which are always based on their need for the Gospel). This is not to take away from Old’s excellent taxonomy. However, we do need to realize the importance of elements from various kinds of preaching, and use everything at our disposal to preach Christ, and Him crucified.

The Holy Spirit is not limited to any one of these methods. However, we do usually tie the Holy Spirit to the Word most often in Reformed circles, and rightly so. It would therefore seem to me that the preaching of books of the Bible would be the most effective way of ministering to God’s people, recognizing that we need some of those other things also.