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Preaching Articles

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).

Weaknesses:

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).

Weaknesses:

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.

Brady is the lead pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO. He is married to his college sweetheart Pam and is the dad to two great kids, Abram and Callie. He has just written a book called Fear No Evil and he's really serious about caring for the people of Colorado Springs by opening numerous Dream Centers.

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David Hallum

commented on Oct 14, 2011

Being a purveyor of the second version of preaching, I can tell you that it is OK to deviate from a book you are preaching through for a special moment in history. If the Lord moves you to preach a particular sermon, it doesn't matter if you have a "Series" lined up. Keep up the good work.

Troy Heald

commented on Oct 14, 2011

Agree completely with this. I myself am a lay pulpit-supply minister and have challenges at times, not speaking every week, with topics. However, regardless of the series as long as we are teaching expositionally thru the passage, desiring to draw out of the passage the original understanding as God intended, we will be teaching truth which is of the utmost importance. It is my prayer each time I teach/preach that we understand the passage as God intended, in the context He intended. Certainly, I also think regardless of the series, one can also stray as needed. For example if the series is on Ephesians but something local/national dictates something else needs to be covered, go there and come back to the series the following week or 2.

Casey Scott

commented on Oct 14, 2011

I don't know why it has to be either/or? Why not both/and? As a preacher who plans out a year's preaching in advance, I plan both kinds of series. I will do several short, topical or thematic series; as well as a couple longer, expository or doctrinal series. I think both are important in leading and feeding a healthy church. If you want to understand the need for this balance better, read some of Andrew Blackwood's stuff. Also read Stephen Nelson Rummage?s book, ?Planning Your Preaching?

Thomas Donelan

commented on Oct 14, 2011

I tend to agree with the general tenor of this discussion. Why is it either/or. For example my church is going through 1 Thessalonians right now now then we will change up a little bit and have a topical study or two then back to do another book study. And if you feel it is appropriate, you can deviate for a message for a special day or message. We need to be led by the Spirit and not so married to a topic or series that we become inflexible.

Michael Buckingham

commented on Oct 15, 2011

Very interesting article, I tend you use a bit of both preaching style mixed with about 200 others, I just don't seem to be able to stick with one style, don't know whether that is a good thing or a bad thing really

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