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May 4, 2023

Expository Preaching vs Topical Preaching: Which Should You Use?

Written By Grace Theological Seminary

The Bible is a sixty-six book anthology that covers myriad topics, such as salvation, how to relate to God, the Christian life, and the future. God inspired forty different authors to pen His words into an instruction manual for living. Each book, chapter, and verse work together to provide a full picture of what God wants believers to know, how He wants them to think, and who He wants them to be. With so much to glean, where should a Christian begin?

Pastors tackle this question every week when deciding what to preach and how. The two main methods used by pastors today are topical preaching and expository preaching. Each has value in building up the church body, and should be considered when planning a sermon series. Let’s take a look at each type of preaching to determine what purposes they each serve and how to know which type to use.


Topical Preaching

Topical preaching is pulling verses and passages from the whole of Scripture that help to explain a certain topic. Pastors who use this type of preaching want to aid their congregation in pausing and thinking about a topic that affects their lives and relationships with God. Topics can cover a wide breadth of information, or be more specific, depending on how long the sermon series is. This is a great option for conferences, seminars, or small groups that have a focused goal.

While it might not seem likely, this type of preaching can be exegetical. To ensure this, pastors should look at the surrounding context of the verses that align with their topic. They should be diligent to present the whole picture of what was happening in the lives of the original readers and the author’s intentions in writing. Finally, they should seek to provide several passages together when covering one aspect of the chosen topic. These measures help protect ministry leaders from plucking single verses from Scripture to support their agenda.  


Expository Preaching

Expository preaching chooses a specific passage of the Bible and teaches through it verse-by-verse. Pastors look at the text as a whole and break it up into bite size pieces in order to help the congregation see the author’s full intended message. This might be done as a stand-alone sermon, or a church may study an entire book of the Bible over several Sundays.

This type of preaching is exegetical because it looks at each verse in the context of the rest of the book. It seeks to capture how all the themes work together to teach readers what God intended for them to know. If preaching many sermons in one chapter or book, pastors should be sure to connect each sermon back to the others so that the congregation can be reminded of the larger message.


Which Type of Preaching Should I Use?

Now that you have an overview of topical preaching and expository preaching, you might be wondering, which one should I use? Both are excellent options that, when done properly, will help your congregation grow and thrive spiritually. The most important aspect of preaching is ensuring it is exegetical, meaning it seeks to find what the original authors were trying to say in the original context and derive lessons for today from that.

Topical preaching and expository preaching can each meet different needs in a church. In order to decide which one to use, here are three helpful questions to ask:

 Is there a common topic that my church is asking questions about?

  1. Is there a book of the Bible that continues to come up in discussion?
  2. What is the main way that my congregation needs to grow spiritually?

By knowing the needs of your congregation, you will be able to shepherd them and be a servant of God to the best of your ability.


Do you want a seminary education that will encourage you to exegete Scripture well, whether through topical preaching or expository preaching, in order to shepherd those around you? Check out our programs today to determine which is the best for you!

For information on Grace Seminary’s views on preaching, check out this exegesis vs. eisegesis blog.