What Will I Preach? (part 2)
Here the rest of the mess I started on Tuesday – how do I determine what I will preach?
4. Topical Periods. I do recognize that the summer months and holiday seasons in American ministry bring great challenges to successive exposition. I do generally plan to preach through shorter series during these periods, addressing a number of topics that I feel are critical for the congregation’s understanding – issues of which we believe exhortation and action are needed. I generally preach a message on the importance of preaching at the beginning of every year. I try to address the subject of the Lord’s Supper (what, why, how, etc.) every year. I make it my aim every year to preach a message on how to listen to a sermon. This summer I plan to preach through some of the distinctive convictions we have as Baptists. There is a waning understanding and commitment to these convictions blowing in the wind, and I want to show from God’s word why they are significant. Sometimes, a passage will lend itself to a break from the exposition so we can focus on a subject. For example, I paused the series in Revelation after preaching chapters 4 and 5 to take 4 weeks and preach a series on corporate worship.
5. Preach the Paragraph. As a general rule, a paragraph tends to reveal a significant thought, or comprise a single argument, press an important emphases. I don’t stress peaching one verse at a time as much as I want to stress showing the main idea revealed in a pericope. So, I tend to want to preach the idea found within the paragraph, showing how the details unfold the main idea and then pressing it home to our conscience for application and action. Rarely does preaching one verse per sermon capture the essence of an intended argument of a passage. I didn’t understand this well earlier in my ministry. I preached 27 sermons in the first chapter of James. Not only did I miss the point of the entire chapter, I created an atmosphere in the congregation that was not attuned to thinking through verses in their context. I rode my theological hobby horses more than bowed to divine purpose of the passage.
6. Flexible, But Diligent. Things happen. I changed my planned sermon for September 11, 2001 and it was helpful. I changed my schedule a few years ago during devastating fires very close to us. I have changed my schedule due to a number of different reasons and invite the suggestions of my fellow pastors in discerning when this is most helpful. Sometimes I find that our congregation needs to slow down, or perhaps speed up the pace on a subject within or section of Scripture. This changes the schedule. Great! Yet, I actually find it most helpful to remain diligent to preach according to schedule. I’ve put some significant thought and prayer into why I will preach what I will preach and when it will fall. I’m confident that God is leading in my planning as much as He is through His providence throughout the year.
7. Preach the OT. Three-fourths of our Bible is Old Testament. Too much of the New Testament hinges on correctly understanding the Old. The Old Testament was not revealed for mere illustrative purposes. So, I seek to be faithful to exposit sections and books of the Old Testament. For example, after preaching through Revelation for 2 1/2 years and moving on to Romans, I took some time and worked through Malachi. After finishing Romans (3 years), I preached on Zephaniah. This summer I plan to preach through Habakkuk. I love preaching through the psalms, and so I take a few weeks every year to work through a number of them.
So, there’s a few thoughts on how I determine what I will preach and when I will preach it. There is much more to it, especially if we were to discuss how my preaching emphasis fits within the total ministry of the church. But, more that for later.
To see how it has fleshed itself out, you can click here to see and search through my sermons.
In your estimation what has been the most beneficial approach to preaching in your life and why?