Pastors tend to spend a lot of time obsessing about preaching and teaching, while the rest of society thinks about it, like never. But it’s Monday, and I spoke at New Life yesterday and still wonder if I’m any good (this is the part that is supposed to motivate you to give me a lot of compliments), but Pam and the kids thought it was great and that’s most important.
Anyway, about a year ago, I underwent a philosophical shift in the way I preach each week. For years, I was a part of a world that primarily taught sermon series on various topics for four to six weeks, each series complete with a cool logo, title and sermon bumper (that is the trendy video that plays right before the pastor magically appears on stage).
Strengths of the sermon series approach to preaching:
1. You can tackle topics that are important to the congregation in a timely way. For example, if marriages seem to be struggling, you can talk about marriage, etc.
2. You can go deeper on topics that need extra time to teach, like eschatology (that’s a fancy preacher word that means the end times).
1. You can skip over the hard topics and just talk about the happy ones. In other words, we can talk about the blessings without talking about suffering or sacrifice.
2. You can drain the life out of your creative team trying to be better or more clever than the last series. Cool one-word titles can slide down the cheese hill very quickly. Our title for the teachings from Luke is … Luke.
My approach for the past year has been to walk through books of the Bible story by story, capturing all the big ideas of the book. I have preached through Ephesians, 1 Peter, and for the past 30 weeks, through Luke. I plan to tackle Acts for the first part of 2012.
Strengths of the book approach:
1. You cannot skip over the hard topics. The past two weeks I have taught out of Luke 16, which focuses on two difficult topics for most pastors—hell and money.
2. Hermeneutics (another fancy word for studying the Bible) is embraced more completely. Who wrote the passage? To whom was he talking? Why did he use specific language? What was going on in the culture at the time?
3. You have to teach on all of the topics and ideas that Jesus and the apostle’s taught their churches and followers. It builds a more complete disciple in the long run (just my opinion, but it is my blog).
1. Missed opportunities to preach about topics that are trending socially. For example, on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, we were in Luke 14, which did not contain a ready-made memorial message.
2. Missed opportunities to camp out for several weeks on topics that need deeper explanation.
For the record, I think both approaches have merit for the local church, and it’s the job of the pastor to listen to what God is saying and to obey. Don’t get stuck in a sermon rut. It is possible, and even probable, that some fresh new ideas may be exactly what all of us need.