How To Give A “Connective Expository Sermon”
The “connective expository” sermon is a type of sermon that teaches, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, through the entire Word of God. It is a very effective way to teach through the Bible, and does not over-emphasize any one passage or Scripture over another, and tends to put everything in proper context with the surrounding verses before and after. It is also one of the most powerful forms of preaching a pastor can use to feed his flock with the Word of God, because it goes methodically through the entire Word of God. I have experienced being in a congregation that uses this form of sermon. I first started attending it when there were only about 12 people attending a Bible Study. In 2.5 years there were 125 in attendance, and it was a legitimate church congregation. In 4 years there were 400 in attendance. And this church is somewhere in New England, a very hard area to evangelize in. But healthy sheep reproduce, and that is a spiritual principle as well. So here goes. The explanation that follows comes from a pastor friend of mine who uses this same format.
1. One takes the first verse or few verses that relate to each other of the chapter you’re going to start preaching from. You are going to try to first explain that verse or short group of verses as they applied to the people and time it was written in, historically. This would be explaining that verse or verses in their historical and cultural understandings of the time they were written in.
2. You are then going to take that same verse or few related verses and look for an application for us in our day.
For example: Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. If there is no specific denomination noted, then it was assumed that we are talking about shekels. Each shekel contained ½ once of silver which trades today at $8.00. $8.00 x 30 = $240. An ipod nano costs $240.00. Therefore Judas sold Jesus out for the price of an ipod! Contemporary keeps it fresh!
Commentaries he uses:
“Strongs Greek and Hebrew Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible”
“International Standard Encyclopedia”
“Jamieson Fausset” and “Brown” for overall sense of the passage
“Adam Clarke” for dates and language
“Albert Barnes” for historical reference
“John Wesley’s notes on the Old and New Testaments
If you buy ‘Powerbible’ softward (about $20.00) you can get all the above and more!
“Jon Courson’s application commentary”
Warren Wiersby “Be Series”
“Word Meanings in the New Testament” by Ralph Earle
J.C. Ryle for devotional thoughts “Expositors Bible Commentary”
“Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the whole Bible”
“The Bible Exposition Commentary” by Wiersby
“Thru the Bible” series, 5 volumes, by J. Vernon McGee
JOSEPHUS, A History of the Jews.
Some other good resources are:
“Sketches of JEWISH SOCIAL LIFE” by Alfred Edersheim
“The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah: New Updated Edition”.
by Alfred Edersheim
“The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, Updated Edition”,
by Alfred Edersheim
(For this Edersheim series, I found all as good used books on Amazon.com)
Try looking these up on http://www.christianbook.com as well as the ones listed above. Special note in using commentaries. There will be interpretations written which do not square with your denomination’s interpretation of the Bible. That’s ok, just weed those comments and ideas out as not applicable. There is a lot of good sound interpretation in commentaries, and there is a lot of chaff along with the wheat. It’s your job as a pastor or Bible study presenter to sift out the chaff, while making good use of the wheat.
There is one last resource that is absolutely available to you….The Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit has the best commentary going, a direct connection to you and “the mind of Christ”, and to God the Father. You just have to really quiet your mind to be able to “hear the Spirit speak” in that “still small voice.”
Example of the connective expository format
What follows is a short part of a connective expository sermon given somewhere in New England. It is a good example of what I have explained above.
“They know his voice”
“John 10, verses 1-5, let’s look. “‘Most assuredly I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.’ Jesus used this illustration [parable], but they did not understand the things which he spoke.”---of course referring to some of the harder hearts. Well he used a parable, you remember in the other Gospel, Jesus says the same, he uses a parable to illuminate a truth, that word para, alongside. It’s a truth, a story, a picture, it draws an image in your mind. And that image helps illuminate, sheds light on a certain truth so that his audience will better understand or have more of a chance, he’s trying to draw out their understanding, ‘Listen to what I’m trying to say.’ So now he uses this picture to convey certain things to them. And hopefully they’re going to be able to discern what he’s saying, although we’re told there’s some of them that don’t. Well, using this illustration [parable], it’s a sheep and shepherd, that’s something people 2,000 years ago in Palestine would be very familiar with. It would certainly readily convey an image in their minds. Of course a lot of the people back then had a vocation of shepherd, they worked with sheep. In fact there was, historically, some real heavy hitters in the nation of Israel, you know, David and Moses, people like that, themselves were shepherds. So this certainly is something that would convey something to them. But for us now, 2,000 years later, it may not readily convey the image that it would to them. So as we go through this I’ll bring out some of the history that’ll help bring some things to light. But in Jesus’ day during certain times of the year the shepherds would bring their sheep out to some greener pastures, maybe some fields that were further away, maybe along some slopes and things. And they would go further away, so they would have to stay away from their village, and they would build maybe a temporary sheep-pen or sheepfold. They would use brush and things like that to keep their sheep in for the night, and the sheep would stay with the shepherd there in this little sheepfold at night. But also, in this little passage here especially brings this to light, this bit of history. In the villages, maybe during the wintertime, they would stay closer to home. And just outside the villages there was more of a permanent structure made of stone, and the walls around it were six or seven feet high. And what would happen then, is at the end of the day the different shepherds would bring their sheep into the sheepfold, multiple shepherds bringing their sheep into this one area, and it was a permanent type of dwelling. And it was one that was used closer to home in the winter months and things like that. And what would happen is the shepherds would then go home, but they would leave one guy in charge, and he would take care of the sheep for the night. And then in the morning the shepherds would come out, and as they would come out, and they would draw the sheep out, and the sheep would go with them, and you could just see the shepherds going out to the fields then with their sheep in the day. But if you were a casual observer there watching in the morning by the sheep-fold, you could certainly quickly discern, ‘That guy’s a shepherd, and that’s his sheep’, just by certain things that he does and by how the sheep respond to him. You could tell, ‘That’s the shepherd, and that’s his sheep’, it would be very clear to you. And that’s what Jesus is conveying here to his audience. It’s the first point that he makes, is that a true shepherd, when he comes, he enters directly through the doorway into the sheepfold. He comes right in. As he comes in the doorkeeper recognizes, ‘Hey, that guy, he’s parked his sheep here, he’s a shepherd’, and just as you go and get your car from the valet, they recognize the number or whatever, he’s recognized and just let’s the shepherd in, and the shepherd goes in and gets his sheep. So, the fact that he comes through the door, the entrance to the sheepfold, says it’s obvious this guy who comes in so readily, he’s a shepherd. On the other hand, the thief or a robber doesn’t have that same certainty. He knows that if he comes through the door that doorkeeper isn’t going to let him in. So he has to strategize, he probably plans to go in at night, when there’s darkness, with certain tactics and strategies, maybe he can climb over the walls, sneak in, be unnoticed and maybe take a sheep or two or three, maybe be with other thieves and robbers and they can come and take some of the sheep with them. And of course if you saw a guy climbing over the wall, around the back at night, I mean, what would you think? It would be like if a cruiser drove through my neighborhood in the town I live in, and there’s a police officer driving through and he sees me, I’d rather have him see me with my key opening the door than with a pry bar there trying to get through the side window. I’d much rather have him see me going through the front door than through the side window. If he saw that, what would he do? He’d stop and come over and certainly ask me some questions, and then I got to give some kind of evidence, the pry bar isn’t enough evidence to show him that this is my house. I have to demonstrate in another way that I live there. So Jesus is saying that by the manner the shepherd comes, he enters straightway into the sheepfold, that clearly indicates that he belongs there. His behavior shows that he belongs there, unlike somebody else who doesn’t belong there. Their behavior would be different, their behavior would indicate that they didn’t belong there. Now, when my little girl was born in the spring, this past spring, our little baby, there in our local hospital in the maternity ward, when I first came up there and the door is a locked door, a glass door with a little counter, I had to speak to the nurses and explain to them who I was, that my wife was in labor and this is my name, this is her name, and we are going to have a baby shortly, and as I explained to them they go on the computer and did their homework, they let me in as the father. But I stayed there two days, some of us husbands will do that, we’ll stay with our wives. And as I stayed there when my wife had my little girl, we both were given little wristbands to identify that the little baby was ours, and of course the nurses were familiar with our faces. So I’d go down to the cafeteria at times, and when I came back I didn’t even have to say, ‘Hey, this is Steve’, I’d just come walking up and they would see me and they’d just buzz me and let me in. They knew who I was, they recognized me, and they knew that my little baby girl and my wife belonged to me, so I was readily allowed in. And this is the picture of course that Jesus is demonstrating. He’s making it clear that he is not some spiritual thief or robber, he’s not some false spiritual shepherd, he didn’t enter in a sly way and use some strange strategy to try to draw people unto himself, he didn’t do things in secret, but he did it right out in the open. He’s come, he stood before the nation of Israel (right in their temple), he stood before all the world, he’s not held back, he’s said the truth readily and straight, and just by his behavior of doing that it says there’s something different about him, and the fact about the way the sheep respond to him, it shows that he’s genuine and he’s not some false shepherd. [Comment: The ordinary people of Israel, as indicated by some of the remarks by some of the Pharisees, ‘See, the whole world is going after him’, loved Jesus and often followed him in large crowds, even though they didn’t always understand his teaching, finding it hard to comprehend at times (cf. John 6).] Unlike many cultists that come into our community, they come into our community and maybe knock on our doors and they’ll speak to us, but they use a different tactic. They’re not straight with the truth. I think of the Mormons, not to put down anybody, but this is true of Mormons, if you don’t believe me you can try this. But if they come to your home, they’ll tell you this, ‘I believe in Jesus of the Bible,’ they’ll tell you they believe in the Jesus of Christianity and they’ll portray that, but if you know a little bit about Mormonism, you can ask questions and you’ll find out that’s not the case. They won’t tell you though until you ask them questions, straight pointed questions. You’ll ask them, ‘Is Jesus the brother of Satan?’, and they’ll say ‘Yes he is.’ They wouldn’t have told you that before, but the fact that they believe he is says he’s not the same Jesus in the Bible. And you can go on and on with various questions. Cultists do things secretly, they do a sales job, and that’s different than the genuine deal. Jesus just comes and says ‘Here’s the deal, nothing to hide. I’ve come, and here’s the message from God. And I’m not going to try to be sly, and I’m not going to nod my head and say I agree with things I don’t agree with, here’s the deal. Here’s the truth.’ And that is a mark of the real deal, the genuine shepherd, that’s what he’s saying. But another sign again, as Jesus says, is how the sheep respond to his voice, they have ears to hear. Meaning they recognize the shepherd’s voice, and because of their relationship with the shepherd they then respond, and they then follow the shepherd. So they hear his voice, and so they have a relationship with him, they then readily follow him. They know his voice. And like my dogs, growing up, they knew my voice, but they would respond differently to a stranger. I mean, if a stranger came up they’d be barking and howling, and if a stranger tried to calm them down it wouldn’t work. And a lot of you have the bigger dogs, and that’s just the truth, that dog just gets all the more upset. And the sheep are the same way, they would respond differently to a stranger’s voice. In fact, there would be fear and they’d want to flee and run away. I mean if you came as a shepherd, disguised, if you were a thief disguised as the shepherd, the same clothes, you got the little glasses and the staff, and you walk the same way, but then if you spoke the sheep would know, ‘this guy’s just fooling me, man. He’s dressed the same, looks the same,’ you know, you think of the wolf there in Little Red Ridinghood, you know, maybe he dresses the same, but there’s a difference here. And with the sheep it would be specifically the voice that reveals who’s who. Well when the shepherd comes in the morning, he’d call out to them, maybe by name, in some cases in the land of Israel they even named the sheep. Maybe there’s a certain whistle, and man those sheep would come to him, and they would hear his voice, and they would be drawn to him, so then he would leave with all his sheep from the sheepfold, and you could just see the sheep then following behind him. He would lead. He wouldn’t drag them, wouldn’t force them, he would lead. Because they want to be with him, they just follow him. He wouldn’t force them, he would lead, because they want to be with him, so they just follow him. And [looking on] you would say ‘That’s the shepherd, and there’s his sheep.’ So that’s what Jesus is saying to his audience, especially to these hard-hearted religious leaders. He says, ‘Just look at the manner in which I have come, see the response of the people, and the women and men who have ears to hear. And it very clearly testifies that I am the true shepherd.’ But this is also an explanation to these religious leaders why they won’t follow Jesus. It’s also an explanation to them. He’s driving that point home. And the reason they won’t follow him is they don’t have ears to hear. They just don’t have the spiritual discernment. They don’t have the desire really to know, they are spiritually deaf. So they hear the voice physically, but they don’t hear the voice spiritually, so they don’t respond. So at the same time he’s making it clear to them why they don’t respond. I think of a story of a lady in our church, and I would think she would give me the permission to say this story. It’s a cute story, I don’t know if she’s here this morning, I won’t use her name. But when she was young, one night her and her sisters, they slept in different rooms, one particular night, you know, she’s younger, his sisters are younger, there’s a big thunder storm outside and all the lightning and thunder, and the flashing in the window there, and there evidently was a big tree next to her house that began to bang the side of the house. She got very scared. Well in her fear she didn’t want to be alone, so she got on her knees and crawled out of her room, crawled across the hallway and crawled into her sisters room and came up to the side of her bed, and then began to very quietly call out the name of her sister. But the cute part of the story was her sister’s response. Suddenly out of a dead sleep her sister sat up and said “Yes God?” [laughter]. Now there’s somebody who wanted to hear the voice of the Lord! [continued laugher] Didn’t see anybody in the room and heard the voice, “Yes God?”. I always thought that was a cute story when I heard it. So, that’s what Jesus is saying, ‘You religious leaders, you’re not like that. You know, I speak to you and I use stories [parables], I try to get your attention, I want you to change, I want you to turn to me, but you’re not willing to.’ But there are some that are desirous to hear, and man, the sheep hear his voice, and they respond, and they follow him. Well the question then, as we’ve studied this, is what about ourselves? Who do you follow? Just a question between you and God. Who do you follow? Who’s voice do your respond to, is it just your own voice? And can you actually say that? I mean, how many of us really are influenced by other voices? How many people are influenced by that box that sits in the living room? How does that box determine the philosophy and the mindset of our nation, tremendously? Whose voice do you respond to? When you hear God’s Word, does it minister to you? Does it minister to your heart? And do you respond therefore to God’s leading to you? Or maybe are you being deceived by other stranger’s voices in the world. So the question, whose sheep are you and who do you belong to? Jesus is making it clear, ‘It’s clear whose sheep are mine, you can tell by what they do. They hear and they respond, and they follow me.’
“I am the door of the sheep”
Verses 7-10, “Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All whoever came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door, if anyone enters by me, he will be saved and go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.’” Well, what Jesus says here, if you’ve read it closely, it might appear a little confusing. Clearly from the first five verses he refers to himself as a shepherd, as the true Shepherd. And now as he continues to use the same imagery of sheep and shepherd in a sheepfold, now he says something different. He refers to himself as being “the door”. And you’re like, ‘That’s confusing”. Well maybe he’s switching to convey a truth. But there is some history here that makes this passage interesting and allows us to understand it a little bit better. There’s a common practice in the land of Israel, especially then, but even today, that when the shepherds make those sheepfolds, whether with the brush there in the country, or maybe just outside the village with the stone walls, that there’s three walls, or maybe a little bit more than that, and there’s this opening, but there’s often no door, there’s no physical door, it’s just open. But what happens is this, the sheep are brought in at the evening, and the shepherd brings them in, and what he does is he actually lays down in that opening. And in effect, he becomes the door. So now this makes sense, as you see as Jesus says, referring to himself as the shepherd, but also as the door. In fact the practice in Palestine was for the shepherd to be the door to the sheepfold, the sheep-pen. There’s a story of a tourist that observed a shepherd in Syria, and as he was observing how a shepherd drove all his sheep into a sheepfold one evening, the fold was an enclosing wall with only one opening. On that opening he noticed that there was neither door nor gate, so he remarked to the shepherd “Can’t wild beasts get in there? I mean, it’s wide open.” “No,” answered the shepherd, “because I am the door. When the sheep are in for the night, I lie down across the doorway. No sheep can get out except over my body, and no wolf or thief can get in except over me.” And that’s what Jesus is here saying, he’s the shepherd, but he’s also the door. And as the door, like that shepherd would lie down, man, those sheep can’t get out. You know, if you’re sleeping, you know, you can just imagine, maybe a real sly sheep trying to sneak out, like some of us kids did with our parents when we were younger, just imagine if you had to climb over your parents, and if you’re a sheep having four little hooves being a clumsy sheep, I mean, you just can’t get by that guy, he’s laying there, you can’t climb over him. Of course sheep are not real acrobatic, they can’t really jump like deer, the sheep is stuck. But also being a wolf, you’ve got to get flying, but you’ve also got to grab a sheep and then you’ve got to drag it by [or over] that guy. I mean, it’s a great door, about the best door you could have. Just imagine if you slept there on your front door, you know, kind of just leaned there each night, it would be hard to get buy you to break into your house because you’re sleeping there [Just the thought of the old-time farmer sitting on the front porch with a shot-gun to guard against unwanted suitors coming to visit his daughter comes to mind.] Unless you’re like some people who sleep really sound, and you can do just about anything and they won’t wake up. But Jesus is using again this to convey a spiritual truth. He says as he’s the shepherd, he’s also the door, and he’s the door for the sheep-pen. And when he says that, he’s speaking spiritually. But he makes the point, he says “I am the door.” He’s not like Buddha, or Confucius, or Krishna that said “I’m one of the many doors.” Jesus, as we’ve seen throughout the book of John states it emphatically, that this isn’t some church teaching, these are the words of Jesus---“I am THE door, I am the one door.” And with the sheepfold meaning God’s sheepfold, God’s sheep-pen, there’s only one door into the Kingdom of God, where God’s sheep-pen is. And what is the door? How do we get through it? Jesus says “I am the door.” He’ll say that repeatedly as we go through the Gospel of John, these very words, he’ll say “I am the way.” And he makes it clear, there is no other way, as Paul says in the book of Acts, there’s only one name. So Jesus says “I am the door.” So it just says, the sheep, that’s the only way to get into the pen, where there’s safety from harm. You have to go through that door also to go out to the green pastures. And he’s the same, he’s that one door.” To see more examples of the connective expository sermon, log onto http://www.unityinchrist.com/john/john1-1-5.html and refer to the upper nav bar, select any one of them and read through it, print it up, see how it flows from explaining the verse or short set of verses from the historic point of view, and then it’s modern application, and then goes to the next verse or short set of verses and repeats the pattern.
Sermon preparation day
The pastor who gave this sermon above spends the whole day before he’s going to preach as a “preparation day”, where he takes no calls or emails, and basically spends the day in prayer and research, putting the sermon together. I don’t really see this pastor bring up copious notes to the podium, just his Bible. But he could have small paper notes in his Bible. Doesn’t mean you can’t bring up an outline of your sermon if you need to, along with your Bible.
A shortened version, or sermonette version can be used as well
Taking one or two verses at most, you can give one or two essential points covering those verses, giving a mini sermon. The next week or time you speak, take the next one or two verses after those, and speak expositorily on them. Soon you will find yourself preaching through a chapter of the a Gospel, then a whole Gospel as time goes on. Small steps, baby steps can lead to learning the most effective way of preaching, the most nourishing type of sermon your congregation will ever experience. It teaches through the whole Word of God without over emphasizing certain parts of God’s Word or under-emphasizing other parts. It is the most balanced, honest and healthy way to preach the whole Word of God.