Why emergent/liberal churches will never have the power of the first century church they want

“I want our church to be like an Acts 2 church.”
“Oh, Holy Spirit, come down in power and presence to us today.”
“The original church was the best, we should be like them. We can be like them.”

I hear and read comments like those a lot today. The liberal or emergent churches stand on stage with a fog machine and the praise band plays the same refrain over and over, millennials are swaying and hands are upstretched. They cry out for power and wisdom and for the Holy Spirit to descend upon them in force. They crave ever more potent “experiences” and “power” and “anointing” as the early church seemed to have had.

And yet there is one critical ingredient that they lack, and in so lacking, they will NEVER have the power of the spirit that they crave. Can you guess what that ingredient is?

The word of God.

Preaching from the Bible.

Expository preaching in the power of the Spirit.

Teaching the people from God’s word.

Do you realize how much preaching from God’s word took place in the first century church? ALL OF IT. Jesus, (in Luke 24:13-35) Peter, Stephen, Paul…all preached the Old Testament and taught the new covenant as given to them by Jesus. Sermons, sermons, sermons. Expository preaching is what drove the first century church of Acts. Preaching. Much of Acts are recorded sermons preaching God’s word.

The book of Acts gives a unique glimpse into the life and practice of the early church. It describes the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Acts 2, the spread of the Gospel outside of Jerusalem in Acts 8 and to the Gentiles in Acts 10, how the church made decisions in regards to doctrine (Acts 15), and more.
The sermons recorded in Acts give us a window into the preaching ministries of Peter, Stephen, Philip, James, and Paul, along with the immediate impact those sermons had.
Below is a list of sermons preached in Acts along with a short description and reference for each are listed below. Not every passage below quotes the preacher’s sermon directly, but each passage will share something important about the content of the sermon or the response of the hearers. (source & chart below)

Many of these churches/preachers them tacitly or overtly declare expository preaching as old, dusty, and/or unnecessary. Or worse, some say it’s so easy it’s cheating. Yet such preaching is entirely necessary.

It is the preaching from God’s word that is the power. The liberal/emergent/millennials want power but they deny the vehicle that will bring them that power. They want wisdom but deny the only place where wisdom resides. They want Spirit power by bypass Jesus, who IS the Word.

From The Cripplegate, an excerpt from an interview with expositor Steven Lawson on the nature of expository preaching.

I believe that the Apostle Paul lays out the essentials of preaching in 1 Timothy 4:13 when he writes, “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, and to teaching.” 

In true expository preaching, there must be the reading of the text, the teaching of the text, and the exhorting with the text. Expository preaching informs the mind, ignites the heart, and impels the will. 

The supposed preaching that only instructs the mind is not a sermon, but a lecture. The supposed preaching that merely touches the heart is not a sermon, but a mere devotion. The supposed preaching that merely challenges the will is not a sermon, but a manipulation. True expository preaching must address all three aspects of the inner life of a person — mind, emotion, and will. Anything less, is not expository preaching.

Is your preacher more excited to read the announcements than to read the word of God? Or does he unashamedly proclaim the Word in power and truth?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)

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Further Reading

Six Characteristics of a Healthy Church

[hint: one of them is expository preaching]