From the very beginning of Christianity the disciples of Jesus gathered for worship, prayer, community, evangelism, and the reading and teaching of God’s Word. It could be said that all Christians through all ages practice these things, but different groups place different emphasis on the individual parts.
In the Calvary Chapel family of pastors and congregations, reading and teaching the Bible is important. It’s not the only thing we do when we gather, but it is an essential thing. By our understanding of God’s Word, we know how we should do all the other things. We know the importance and practices of worship, prayer, community and evangelism because the Bible tells us of them.
This is something deep in our character, going back to what God did through Pastor Chuck Smith in his early years at Calvary Chapel. Pastor Chuck emphasized the verse-by-verse examination and explanation of the Bible. He practiced and promoted what is called expository teaching or preaching, which works to draw the meaning and emphasis of the teaching from the Bible itself, hoping to let the Scriptures speak for themselves.
Chuck Smith practiced and promoted this, but he certainly did not start it. As God has done many times through history, He simply used Pastor Chuck to renew a focus on the Bible itself. A noted scholar of preaching (Hughes Oliphant Old) said that Chuck Smith was “reviving the systematic exposition of Scripture . . . In our day, he is one of the purest examples of a preacher who follows in the footsteps of Chrysostom, Augustine, Zwingli, and Calvin.”
Our goal is not to merely teach from the Bible as a starting point, but to have the theme and emphasis of our teaching come from the biblical text itself.
The verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter, book-by-book approach to our preaching and teaching work is essential in our Calvary Chapel family. Our goal is not to merely teach from the Bible as a starting point, but to have the theme and emphasis of our teaching come from the biblical text itself.
In this we bring forth the whole counsel of God, letting Jesus work through His Word to build His church. Ideally, we stress the simple and clear teaching of the Bible and are careful with speculation and diversions.
It’s not that topical preaching is forbidden in Calvary Chapel churches. There is a time and a place for preaching on topics rather than through books of the Bible. Yet, the foundation of teaching and preaching ministries in our congregations is solidly built upon the verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter examination and explanation of the Bible. If the foundation is strong, there is no harm in the occasional topical message or series. Still, even when we teach topically, we hope to do it in an expositional manner, drawing our preaching on the Bible itself and not on what we would impose on the text.
Our sincere desire is to, as much as is possible, let the Bible text speak for itself. We don’t exalt the Bible to the place of God; but we do recognize that the Bible is God’s voice, and we hear it with both awe and love. We know that what the Bible says is far more important than the opinion or wisdom of even the best among us. For those reasons we try to give the Bible itself prominence in our teaching and preaching work. We also encourage everyone to read and study the Bible for himself or herself daily, as part of normal Christian discipleship.
Not all of us are great or even good expositors of the Bible, but we humbly ask God for the gifts of wisdom, discipline, and humility necessary to deliver His message to His people and a needy world. We know that Jesus meets His people in and through His Word, and that the work of God’s Word never comes back empty (Isaiah 55:11).