“The best of expository preaching takes its message and its thrust, and, ideally, even its form, from the biblical text itself. Most of our preachers managed this superbly while remaining, in form and style, exceedingly diverse” (D.A. Carson p. 10). HT: Denny Burk)
Mark’s message was not stellar. It really was not all that good. One thing for sure, it falls short of being a good exposition. Our attorney friend was more on the mark when he put on his Facebook account that if you like a combination of a psychologist, a comedian, and a fundamentalist preacher you’d like what you heard that night. I suppose I would have laughed more if I had been in the room with a whole bunch of pastors who are notoriously like boys going to camp every time they gather for a conference, but I really didn’t think it was sidesplitting hilarious. But that’s beside the point. Without going into an in depth analysis of each of his points, here is a broad critique of Mark’s message and Gospel Coalition for promoting him followed by a few remarks about Mark’s clothes.
1. Mark’s message was an atomistic interpretation and exposition of his assigned text. Some people think that expositional preaching is to draw every point from a word or phrase in the text before them. This is not necessarily expositional preaching. The goal of expositional preaching is to make every point expose the intention of the text.
Mark’s message had 20 points (not to mention the 20 previous points of introduction that took over a half hour to describe the types of people that he encountered in ministry). By the time Mark had worked his way through those twenty points, I had to re-read the passage to remind myself what the actual intention of the text was! Sometimes his points sprang off one word in the text and developing a whole line of thought that wasn’t remotely linked to the text (though it could be imagined as linked to the word or phrase he was commenting on.)
This may seem petty, of course, but remember that he is being touted as a great leader/preacher by the Gospel Guild. It behooves us to think for ourselves on these things.
2. Mark’s message failed to be Gospel-centered at a conference for the Gospel Coalition. Mark had one of the best opportunities of all the men to nail down the two core themes of salvation that are uniquely and expressly articulated in his assigned text, and he missed it. “But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity’” (2 Timothy 2:19). Could there have been a better place to proclaim the dual Gospel lodestones that draw the most debate and discussion than at a conference dedicated to the Gospel?
Without opening your Greek New Testaments just think for two seconds on that verse and those two weighty concepts:
a. The Lord knows those who are his. This is God’s sovereignty.
b. Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity. This is sanctification.
Sovereignty and sanctification! Can you think of any other two concepts that are more misunderstood in the doctrine of salvation than these? Wow! What an opportunity to show that God’s firm foundation bears that seal! Instead, we got a dose of Mark’s philosophy of ministry in a series of disconnected sound bytes.
3. The Gospel Coalition disappoints me, men, when they promote this kind of preaching. I thought I could have shut my eyes and imagined myself in an old fundamentalist meeting where a personality cult has built up around a person who dishes out what he calls expositional preaching. Too much of this kind of thing and the happy Gospel Guild will become a powerless fellowship. Personality cultism killed huge segments of Fundamentalism, and the Gospel Guild, being human, is not above the same pitfall.