Those of us committed to verse-by-verse exposition will know that one of its practical advantages is that it takes away the weekly stress of deciding what to preach on. If we preached from Ephesians 1 last week, we know that we will speak from Ephesians 2 this week. But what about the macro level? How do we decide what books our people need to hear?
Some pastors arrange their teaching programs for a whole year or even longer; others work 4-6 months ahead. Our church tends to arrange its rotas three months at a time, which means I am beginning to think about July to September at the moment.
Here are seven questions I ask myself during this process:
1. Am I cultivating the sorts of habits out of which a good sermon series can grow?
There are certain habits that can lay the foundation for deciding what to preach on. Along with cultivating our own walk with God through prayer, one piece of advice that I was given is to read through the whole Bible every year. This will help to ensure that when we come to select material for sermons, our eyes are open to all the possibilities.
The tendency exists among all of us to preach on what we know. Therefore, if we have not read 1 Kings recently, then we are very unlikely to preach on 1 Kings.
Another habit recommended by Derek Prime is to write down the ‘seeds of sermons’ when they occur so we can retrieve them at a later date. These days, the ability to make notes easily on an iPad should mean that the annoying feeling of writing something down only to lose it is a thing of the past.
2. Have I prayed?
A series must be chosen prayerfully and carefully. Peter Grainger adds, “Considerable thought and prayer is needed before deciding on a series and its relevance to a particular congregation. There is nothing worse than wondering in week four of a two year series on 1 John whether you have made the wrong choice.” (Firm Foundations, p. 10)