Thoughts On Preaching “Sermon Series”
Here sometime back I was asked why I preach so often using a “series” format. This is a question that I have been asked several times before and so I thought I would share my reasoning and though processes with everyone…
Through the generations since the birth of the Church on the day of Pentecost there has been but one message that we as followers of Christ have been charged with making known to the world, that message simply being that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God, and He alone is the path to salvation for all men. Though the content of that divine message remains unchanged and rightfully so, the presentation has changed over time to meet the needs presented by an ever changing cultural and social climate. In 1st Corinthians 9:22-23, the apostle Paul makes the comment that he has become “all things to all people,” so that he might effectively present the Gospel message. His message never changed, his methods certainly did. I don’t believe there is necessarily a “right” or “wrong” way to present the message we’ve been charged with, but over the years of my ministry I have found the most effective and productive way of presenting God’s word on a weekly basis to the congregation I’ve been called to serve is to focus on a “systematic” presentation where my messages are often presented in a “series” format consisting of anywhere between 3 to 12 separate messages.
There are several reasons that my preaching of scripture is most often carried out in a “series” format. I will briefly explain each of my reasons in order to attempt to provide explanation as to why I chose to present the Word in the format I do…
These are just a few of my reasons…
1. It provides for a greater cumulative impact on the congregation as a theme is continually reinforced.
2. It provides for a more thorough treatment of a subject, theme, or passage. Each week builds on the previous weeks and takes the subject further
3. It provides continuity for the listeners as they remember the previous week and can anticipate what will be presented in the coming weeks.
4. It allows me to be more focused and directed in my study and preparation. It’s a great help in that I don’t have to spend the first few days of each week struggling over the choice of a topic for the next week’s message. As I study a subject, chapter, or book of the Bible for a period of weeks my study patterns I believe are more efficient and focused.
This doesn’t mean that I simply make my plan, not allowing room for change or the leading of the Holy Spirit. I seek out God’s guidance in every aspect of sermon preparation. To plan for the upcoming year takes all of the current year to compile. There have been many times when I’ve had my sermon completed, and in the days just prior to Sunday I have been led to change it, sometimes on a Saturday evening. More often than not, I follow my yearly sermon plans roughly 75% of the time.
5. I believe it serves to encourage regular attendance at church and communicates the message that each week is linked to other weeks.
In years past, especially before the advent of the printing press many preachers practiced what is known as “lectio continua,” which means they would continue in the reading and preaching of Scripture in order and would preach through a whole book of Scripture in a very lengthy series.
From my experiences I have found that a series of three to twelve sermons is most acceptable, because it’s important that we don’t spend so much time on one theme from scripture to the determent of another equally important theme. This is where guidance from the Holy Spirit is most needed in the planning process.
There are many different types of series. Here is a basic list, and they aren’t listed in any order of priority.
1. Doctrinal Series. A specific and fundamental doctrine of the faith is selected and taught in consecutive messages.
2. Narrative Series. God’s acts in history are part of His revelation of himself, so to study a process of historical events can be helpful. In this we see history moving towards His goal!
3. Biographical Series. The drama of individual lives is a prominent part of the Scriptures, but requires more than one sermon to explore them.
4. Thematic Series. A specific theme of the Christian life or faith is selected and explored.
5. Issues Series. Many problematic questions arise in our attempt at living out our faith.
6. Chapter Series. Select one special chapter of the Bible and work through it with consecutive sermons
7. Book Series. This is the most historical method, going back hundreds of years; a book of the Bible is selected and expounded in succeeding weeks until completed.
8. Request Series. This is a personal favorite of mine, it’s when a pastor solicits suggestions from the congregation on issues, questions, and passages that they’d like to hear addressed in a message. The topics my vary in type or context, but are tied together
So there it is, the method behind my “madness,” even though I enjoy doing sermon series and believe presenting the word in this fashion is beneficial. However I don’t believe “series” preaching is the end-all be-all method to presenting the word of God, and I preach many messages during a given year that aren’t attached to each other in any form.