I’ve spent the last month or so mapping out the next year of preaching. That doesn’t mean I’m preparing a year’s worth of sermons in detail or that I won’t make changes along the way. Sometimes a congregation experiences unexpected transitions or cultural events, and sometimes God just makes it clear that what was planned isn’t the best message for the moment. So I’m flexible, but I want to think ahead.
I believe annual sermon planning is vital for several reasons.
1. TO BALANCE WHAT THE CONGREGATION IS BEING FED.
When I map out a year of sermons I try to be intentional about balancing certain factors, such as:
• I want to teach from both testaments and every major genre of literature—narrative history, prophecy, poetry and wisdom, the gospels, and the epistles.
• I want to touch on all of the major areas of systematic theology—bibliology (the Bible), soteriology (salvation), pneumatology (the Holy Spirit), anthropology (mankind), ecclesiology (the church), etc.
• I want to talk about all five purposes of the church, and of life—worship, evangelism, discipleship, fellowship and ministry.
• I want to plan series designed to reach seekers, ground new believers and take seasoned saints deeper into the beauty of the gospel.
I recognize that many readers will be strong advocates of expository preaching, as in, preaching through books of the Bible. I’m no stranger to this method. I spent four years at one church preaching every passage from Genesis 1 through 2 Samuel (yes, even Leviticus). One of my great preaching heroes, W.A. Criswell, made this method famous when he spent 17 years and eight months preaching through the entire Bible at First Baptist Church in Dallas.
While I deeply honor the book-by-book approach, I don’t think it’s the only way to preach effectively or biblically. When I preached this way, I often tended to become too mechanical in my preparation and delivery. Thematic-series preaching has allowed me to stay fresh, get creative and challenge myself as a pastor in a much greater way, which brings me to the second reason planning my preaching a year ahead is important.
2. TO GIVE OUR TEAM A CHANCE TO GET CREATIVE TOGETHER.
Nothing replaces preaching as the primary vehicle for the delivery of God’s truth, but preaching can certainly be enhanced and supplemented with various other kinds of elements such as videos, illustrations, object lessons, intentional song selection, poetic readings and more.
My preaching calendar is visible to my teaching team and to our worship leaders so we can think ahead. And it’s also visible to other ministry leaders for another reason …