What kind of preaching builds churches and equips Christians for ministry? The Bible tells us, in Acts chapter 17. In both Thessalonica and Berea, the Apostle Paul opens the text (verse 2, “from the Scriptures”), he explains its meaning (verse 3, “explaining”), he lays out a case for his hearers to examine (verse 3, “proving,” better translated “setting before”), and he preaches persistently (verse 2, “for three Sabbath days”) looking for application (“persuaded,” verse 4). This is called expository preaching.
How should Christians listen to such preaching? Luke shows us that, too—by way of a contrast. The Thessalonians listened poorly, as they were closed-minded, suspicious, and jealous (verses 5-9). The Bereans, however, listened well because they were noble (verse 11)—meaning generous, humble, and open-minded. They listened “with all eagerness” (verse 11). The Bereans knew the ministry of the Word doesn’t end when the preacher stops talking! They did what every Christian should do: they “took the sermon home,” eagerly seeking to confirm the truth of the sermon by “examining the Scriptures” (verse 11). This is “expositional listening“: intently hearing to properly grasp the argument being made, and then searching the Bible to understand, confirm, and apply what’s being taught. When you gather with another church member for sermon application, you’re being an expositional listener.