Thursday, March 14, 2013

Expository Discussion

I have many fond memories of my time in seminary. One outstanding aspect of life at Southeastern was the constant challenge by both professors and friends to understand the meaning of the biblical text. We students were exhorted again and again to remember that the key is what the original author intended. This stands in stark contrast to the postmodern thought which permeates some churches today (the ideas that texts have no absolute meaning and that the reader brings meaning to the text).

At the seminary level, the first goal is to correctly understand the biblical text. The second is to preach that text in an expository manner. This simply means to explain the meaning of the text to those listening.

While I'm a big proponent of accurate exposition, I've rejected the traditional definition of preaching. Much more beneficial for the church is what we could refer to as expository discussion. This refers to a free-flowing conversation among a group of people seeking to accurately understand what God has said in the scriptures.

Expository discussion takes the best of expository preaching while rejecting the worst. It seeks to know what the original authors of the bible meant while doing so in a give-and-take setting.

Expository discussion is based in the idea that the church is a fully functioning priesthood of all believers. All Christians have the ability to read and understand what God has said. Some may be more experienced at this process, but all can and should participate.

Since all have the ability to read (or at least listen to) scripture and discuss it, the group dynamic is often a fascinating one. In a room with, for example, twelve people, the group can benefit greatly by what the Holy Spirit has to add through all twelve people. While the biblical text means one thing, the group has a way of seeing and describing that one thing is different ways. This helps all involved better comprehend both what God means and how they should respond to this.

A key in expository discussion is that all involved have the authority, under the direction of the Spirit, to say what they think the text means. Of course, there can occasionally be error which needs to be addressed. However, this is not the norm. Believers should be encouraged to add to the discussion. I've experienced many "A-ha!" types of moments listening to brothers and sisters simply describing what they believe a specific verse means. No one in the group has to wait for some outside expert to walk in and tell them what it really means.

I hope you are part of a small group of some type that functions in this way. It could be a home group, a Sunday School class, or simply friends getting together over coffee here and there. Regardless, expository discussion is deeply enriching. It never fails to challenge me. Almost every time I take part in it I see something new I'd never thought of before. This is not always comfortable, but it is beneficial.

Every Sunday our church family gets together. We are currently studying through both Genesis and Proverbs. Each week we discuss a chapter from both books. It never (literally) fails that someone says something that makes me think deeply about what I think I already know. I'm looking forward to this coming Sunday already. I hope you are as well.


Truth lover said...

Interesting post! I am a blogger and after reading other blogs I decided to go through Genesis along with another blogger who live in the UK. It has been wonderful. Often our blogs hit on the same event but it is so interesting the different questions and observations we come up with. Going through Genesis has been life-changing! I have considerable Bible study background, but gave up the organization structure several years ago. I have enjoyed reading your posts!

Eric said...

Truth Lover,

Thank you for commenting on my blog.

I agree that it is such a blessing to simply study and discuss scripture with other believers. We can learn so much from each other. Genesis, in particular, is important because it shows us how things began.

What a wonderful Lord Christ we serve!

Unknown said...

I lean in your direction. But the traditionalist would say "Wouldn't a group of "seminary educated ones" be even better, an elite priesthood of believers?l

Tim A said...

Many expository lecturers would throw in the phrase "pooling ignorance" as the result of expository discussion. I say, what a tragic deprivation of those for who Christ died and is now sanctifying to be the complete fullness of Christ. Col. 3:16 states beautifully God's confidence in the participation of His people in teaching and admonishing in mutual dynamic.

One thought I would add is that all believers should come prepared with study of the text before they seek to participate. "We cannot impart what we do not possess."

Eric said...


I've also heard the charge of "pooled ignorance" many times. Usually it is the "experts" making the charge. Of course, ironically, they cannot support the charge with scripture.

Thanks for mentioning Col. 3:16. I absolutely love that verse. What a beautiful picture of the body helping the body grow together.