And Now a Word From . . . The Text

by Robert Earl Houston

Let me begin by saying the photo has nothing to do with this article. No inference. No suggestive references. Nada. Nothing.

Kinda like some preaching . . .

I’m a student of preaching and preaching styles, but, nothing boils my blood worst than to hear a minister, dressed and coiffed, hit the pulpit, read a scripture, and then commit preaching which does not engage, expose or elaborate upon the selected text.

Again, it’s like this picture of Cee Lo Green and his cat, Purrfect – it has nothing to do with this article.

A few years ago Carole King wrote a memorable song, “You’re so vain . . . you probably think this song is about you . . .” The reality is that preaching a sermon should emanate or at least be anchored by a text.

Preaching is not ranting and raving. Preaching is not trying to score points. Preaching is not about “finding” a scripture to back up a cute phrase you heard on television. Years ago, I heard a preacher preach a sermon “My savior has a first name, J-E-S-U-S” – I literally had to excuse myself from the worship (I was playing the organ that Sunday) because I couldn’t stop laughing uncontrollably.  I would like to suggest three things here:


I know that sounds trivial, but the basic premise of preaching is that you preach the Word of God. The Scriptures. Whether it’s a scripture just for the next preaching event, or a series – it all begins with a text. You need to ask God, who is the author, for the text. Even if you don’t understand it at the initial point, get to know the text.


Understand that the text is not for your benefit primarily. God is using you to speak through to touch the heart, soul and mind of a listener or a group of listeners. Therefore, the primary purpose of preaching is to proclaim what God is saying to that person or group. While they’re going through their seasons of life, you need to stick to the text. While they’re going through transitions, you need to stick to the text. Illustrations and ideas might be okay, but if they remember your story more than they remember the text, you’ve missed the mark.


Expository preaching is not easy. It’s work. You’re going to have to deal with context, culture, language, history, syntax, grammar – you know, all of that stuff you hated in school. You cannot adequately approach the text and proclaim it without doing your homework.  I will forever be indebted to Drs. R.A. Williams, Jr., Larry L. Harris (deceased), and George Waddles, Sr., whose conference, WHW ( opened my eyes to expository preaching. The ending sound of a sermon is hollow if you haven’t exegeted the text. A loud noise may excite the crowd but they’ll go home hungry and an hour later they won’t remember the sermon. They use to have a saying “dig your own well” and I say that to you today – dig, dig, dig.

Dig until your eyes hurt.
Dig until you’ve wore your computer out.
Dig until you’ve looked at every aspect of the text.

Don’t go to the pulpit with a word from the Lord and they leave with a word from you.

Your comments are welcomed!

2 responses

  1. Rev. L.M North | Reply

    Pastor Houston,

    You hit the nail with the hammer on that! The results of unrevelatory and unextrpolated preaching is due to the lack of training. It’s more to delivering the word of God than just the call to preach. Just because one is called does not mean the individual is pulpit ready. I hear so much eisegetic preaching. What is preached and the given interpretation of scriptures must be derived from the Holy
    Spirit. Then the word God can bring forth spiritual inlightment of the information that will result in mind transformation and conviction.

    Rev. Dr. L M. North

  2. I would add that as the text is properly exegeted that we make sure we allow the text to “speak!” There is always the temptation to try to make the text say something that it does not actually say.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


by Pastor Robert Earl Houston

H.B. Charles Jr.

About life, preaching, church, books, and other stuff.

%d bloggers like this: