Topical preaching – What is it?

Topical preaching refers to a sermon focused on a particular topic. Every pastor will utilize topical preaching on some occasions, since this method offers the opportunity to focus on one theme as expressed in a variety of biblical passages. Topical preaching can be used effectively, yet also must serve as part of a balanced diet of biblical teaching to avoid bias or neglect of other areas of Scripture.

In addition to topical preaching, sermons can also include messages on particular Bible passages through a book (expository preaching) or based on a particular biblical character (biographical preaching). When used alongside other preaching types, topical preaching can enhance understanding of important Christian themes, ranging from family, parenting, encouragement, worship, perseverance, finances, evangelism, prophecy, and more.

When topical preaching is the only or primary form of preaching, however, certain problems can develop. For example, every person holds certain biases. If a pastor preaches only topical messages, the personal focus of the pastor tends to drive the topics chosen and which topics are neglected. Certain difficult Christian topics will be avoided in the process.

In addition, the Bible addresses the importance of teaching the full counsel of God. Paul testified before the Ephesian elders, saying, "I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27). He taught God's truth on every topic, speaking the gospel as well as teaching the difficulties of the Christian life they would face.

A third concern with topical preaching is the tendency to use passages to prove a point rather than to interpret a verse within its context. For example, in Isaiah 6:8, the prophet says, "Here I am! Send me." This passage can be used to encourage believers to boldly ask God to send them to serve wherever He desires. However, many neglect the following verses in Isaiah 6 that reveal God's response that includes details that explain Isaiah's efforts will include much suffering. Further, the preceding verses discuss Isaiah's attitude as a humble servant who recognized his sin before the Lord. All three aspects are important to the passage.

A healthy diet of teaching and preaching will include teaching through books of the Bible in addition to topics from the Bible. This approach can help avoid some of the concerns mentioned above and help promote learning from the full counsel of God to build mature believers in the faith. The minister's goal must be, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).

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