“We need a new cat!” Okay, now if you know me, you know I would never utter those words! I’m just not a cat guy. Those words actually come from a story, that has stuck with me through the years, and goes something like this. There once was a church where every Sunday before the service began, someone was designated to go and put the church cat on a leash in the front of the church. This was done every Sunday for years. Then one day, the poor cat died. After giving it an appropriate burial, someone went out and bought a new cat, and they continued the tradition. A newcomer to the church asked why they did this. No one seemed to know. It has always just been our tradition was the reply. But now everyone was curious. There happened to be one elderly member of the church who had been there since the beginning. They asked her why. She replied, “Well, that original cat was ornery and would run in through the door when people were entering and would cause a horrible ruckus. Finally, someone made the wise decision to leash him out front during the service. Problem solved!” Too funny! The cat had no value to the service, and yet, it had become a tradition, an essential part of their worship that meant…nothing.
That story has always led me to ask “why” questions like, “Why do we do what we do the way we do it?” So today I’d liked to answer one of those questions., “Why do we preach/teach the way we do at Brooklife?” Specifically, why do we sometimes teach in an expository manner and sometimes in a topical manner? Great question! First, let me define the terms. Pure Expository teaching is when you work through a book in the Bible. Some would go so far as teaching their way from Genesis to Revelation. The goal would be to not skip anything but teach exactly what the original author taught in the order they wrote it. Topical teaching is more based on dealing with the specific struggles or needs of the congregation and then finding biblical passages that address the topic. Topics could vary from marriage, family, finances, spiritual growth, sexuality, etc.
Secondly, why do we use both styles? Because I believe we need both approaches. I think there is incredible value in working through a book of the Bible. It gives historical context and context within the book. It is incredibly insightful and gives a depth you just cannot get cherry picking throughout Scripture. But, its weakness lies in that it doesn’t address today’s biggest needs as often as I believe most of us need them addressed. That’s where the topical messages come in. They help us work through concepts, which need God’s direction, that might only get addressed a few times in the whole Bible. Think about this. We all believe in good marriages, but how many times is marriage addressed in the Bible? Not nearly as many as you would think! So, we intentionally discuss some topics on a regular basis to meet our real needs.
I believe that a good balance between the two styles helps us gain a fuller understanding of what God revealed to us through His Word and helps us deal with the real problems we face every day. In both styles, we always are seeking out God’s truth and love and how it applies to our every day lives of creating places for everyone. We desperately need to understand God’s truth so that it can transform our lives, because we know He loves us desperately and is guiding us to the absolute best for our lives.