Who Are Some Expositional Preachers Worth a Careful Listen?
By Tim Raymond –
This is the blog post I didn’t want to write. In my recent series, “How Can Seminarians Learn to Preach to Normal People” (part 1, part 2, part 3), I encouraged those of you who desire to grow in your ability to connect biblical exegesis with the person in the pew to schedule time to regularly listen to the sermons of preachers who excel at both exegesis and heart-searching application. At that time, I mentioned that I didn’t want to name specific living preachers as examples of the type of preaching I was advocating (with the single exception of Dr. Joel Beeke), for fear of encouraging that “celebrity pastor” mentality so prevalent in America. The last thing I want to see is an “I am of Paul; I am of Apollos” attitude among my brother-pastors today.
However, since that series went public, I’ve received a surprising number of requests to point our readers to some examples of the types of preaching I believe is most helpful to the church. And I’ve come to realize that some people are simply unaware of good models and are sincerely looking for helpful sermons to listen to.
So, with a bit of fear and trepidation, in today’s post I’d like to mention seven living preachers I believe are worth a careful listen. These seven, to one degree or another, illustrate the principles I enumerated in the aforementioned series. For full disclosure, I’ve chosen the number seven completely at random just to limit myself. Surely there are thousands of good expositors out there and I’m sure the moment this post goes up on the blog, I’ll think of three or four others I wish I had included. These are, however, all men I’ve listened to numerous times, some of them scores of times.
After a brief introduction, I’ll make a couple of comments on the particular strengths of the preacher. Many of these men have hundreds of sermons available for free at www.sermonaudio.com or The Gospel Coalition Sermon Page. And lest anyone try to discern any order of priority here, the men are listed alphabetically.
Joel Beeke – I realize I discussed Dr. Beeke in my previous series, but I want to mention him again. Dr. Beeke is the president of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and pastor of the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids. Contrary to what I said in a previous post, he does not usually preach “textual” sermons (I was graciously corrected on this). Apparently, his pattern has been sequential exposition for at least the last 15 years. In my opinion, Dr. Beeke is an absolute master of thought-provoking, heart-penetrating, lifestyle-examining application. I have never listened to a preacher who so effectively shepherds the souls of his hearers through his preaching. I find myself returning to him again and again, not because he’s necessarily the most mesmerizing communicator or meticulous exegete, but because I know of no other preacher who so consistently moves my heart to worship our great God.
Alistair Begg – Alistair Begg is the Senior Pastor of Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, author of numerous books, and preacher on the daily radio broadcast Truth for Life. While he is well-known in wider evangelicalism, for some reason many in the YRR community aren’t as familiar with him. He is a careful exegete and highly effective at life-examining, convicting application. With his thick Scottish brogue, his witty humor, his commitment to historic Reformed theology, and his constant references to The Beatles, it’s impossible to find him boring. He’s especially good when it comes to matters of marriage and family.
Mark Dever – Mark Dever is the Senior Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church and President of 9Marks Ministries. His preaching is distinctive for at least two reasons. First, he excels in displaying how a text shapes the worldview of the listener. He’ll discuss the implications of a passage for unbelievers, for believers, for singles, for pastors, for entire church congregations, for secular government, etc. Before long you begin to see how a text shapes your entire reality. Second, Pastor Dever is especially gifted at preaching enormous portions of God’s Word in one sermon. I’ve listened to his single sermon on the message of the entire Bible more than once. He’s also covered all the books of the Bible in one sermon a piece.
Sinclair Ferguson – Sinclair Ferguson is the Senior Pastor of the historic First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, SC and professor of theology at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas. Dr. Ferguson is in many ways similar to Dr. Beeke, only with a Scottish accent. He’s an exemplar of careful exegesis, profound theological thinking, and thought-provoking application. His preaching will make your heart break with conviction and sing for joy. Dr. Ferguson is a man who manifestly walks with the Triune God. I remember listening to one of his sermons on the glory of Christ at a conference a few years ago. Both my wife and I felt as if we had been caught up to the third heaven. His many books and commentaries are also excellent reads.
R. Kent Hughes – Though recently retired, Dr. Hughes was the Senior Pastor of College Church in Wheaton for most of my lifetime. He continues to serve as Pastor Emeritus and the editor of the popular Preaching the Word series of commentaries. Dr. Hughes is perhaps the most convicting preacher I’ve ever listened to. I can still vividly remember when I worked for a year in a warehouse listening to his messages through the Sermon on the Mount while I stacked boxes. I’d be so cut to the heart that I’d have to stop working and go off and be by myself. (Thankfully, my boss didn’t mind!) He dissects the text with a precision and self-restraint more like John Stott than Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
John MacArthur – John MacArthur has been the Pastor-Teacher of Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, CA, for over 40 years, is President of The Masters College & Seminary, daily preacher on Grace to You, and is the author of around a zillion books. For so many younger guys my age, John MacArthur is sort of the George Washington of the YRR movement. We were stuck in shallow, spiritually-sick churches, aghast at the sermons we were hearing on Christian radio, about ready to conclude that pastoring was for limp-wristed wimps, and harboring secret fears that Christianity was irrelevant. When all of a sudden somebody handed us a John MacArthur cassette (yeah, cassettes really did exist at one time) and we got smacked in the face by a strong, masculine, no-holds-bared, exegetical two-by-four. Thank God for John MacArthur! Dr. MacArthur has been instrumental in the transition of thousands from generic evangelicalism to historic Calvinism. Furthermore, he has gained a worldwide reputation as a meticulous exegete, being one of the few men in history who have preached verse-by-verse through the entire New Testament. Somehow, he’s able to captivate his congregation while describing the particulars of a second aorist verb. His preaching is characterized by clarity, courage, and conviction, similar in feel to MLJ.
John Piper – John Piper is Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, author of over 30 books, and the primary preacher and author at Desiring God Ministries. Dr. Piper combines careful exegetical skills with profound thinking and burning passion. Like Dr. MacArthur, the Lord has used John Piper countless times to bring younger evangelicals into a fuller appreciation of the Doctrines of Grace. If discovering John MacArthur was getting smacked by an exegetical two-by-four, discovering Piper was getting hit by a theological Taser. Dr. Piper has made famous the statement, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him,” a theme he hits in nearly all his books and sermons.
Honorable mention: The St. Helen’s-Bishopsgate Crew – If I could include one honorable mention, it would be the pastors and preachers who regularly expound the Word at St. Helen’s Church in London. St. Helen’s is an evangelical Anglican church and strongly committed to expositional preaching. Their sermons tend to follow that British approach of John Stott and Dick Lucas. The reason I’ve included them in the honorable mention category is only because I’ve listened to far fewer of their sermons than the men mentioned above. But what I have listened to is of very high quality. And many of their sermons are available as videos. So they might be a source worth exploring further.
I’ll conclude this post by inviting your input. If there’s a preacher who you believe is especially gifted at both exegesis and application, point us to his ministry in the comments section. It’s quite possible that we aren’t familiar with him but could be profoundly nourished by his preaching. And if possible, link to his ministry.
Tim Raymond has been the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Muncie, Indiana since April 2006. He received his MDiv from the Baptist Bible Seminary of Pennsylvania in 2004 and has pursued further education through the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Tim grew up outside Syracuse, NY and previously served at Berean Baptist Church, Nicholson, PA (member and teacher during college and seminary) and Calvary Baptist Church, Sandusky, Ohio (seminary internship location). Tim met his wife Bethany at college, and they were married in May 2001. Tim enjoys reading, camping, wrestling with his three sons, and attempting to sleep.