By Jeff Cockrell
The story is told about a young preacher called to his first pastorate. The first Sunday he delivered a great message. Everyone praised the new pastor for preaching such a wonderful sermon. To their dismay, the next Sunday he preached the same message. Of course, the church people became concerned and perplexed. When he preached the same message the third Sunday, the deacons decided to have a talk with their new pastor.
The deacons assured the young man that they enjoyed his pastoring, that they understood he had some learning to do. Then they asked,”…But, preacher, don’t you have more than just one sermon?”
He responded, “Oh, yes! But you haven’t done anything about the first one yet.
As a pastor, I find it beneficial to emphasize certain subjects for a few weeks. Yet by changing my focus after each series, I still give my congregation the whole Word of God. My personal preaching goal is to say with the apostle Paul, “l have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Series preaching helps me accomplish this task.
Series preaching gives your congregation a balanced spiritual diet. The congregation knows where you are going week-by-week, and excitement builds as people look forward to upcoming messages in the series. And when a church anticipates a sermon series, they are more likely to invite others to come. I once preached a series on the book of Philippians. The church was eager to learn how to have joy in spite of trouble, in spite of people, in spite of worry and in spite of things.
On another occasion, I preached a series on angels. My purpose was to present the biblical view of angels in contrast to the beliefs of popular culture, and to encourage my congregation by reminding them that angels are God’s ministers to Christians.
Two months before the start of the series, I read five books on angels and sections on angels and demons in systematic theology volumes. As I collected information, I selected a general outline and sketched out eight sermons. Each week, as I prepared to preach that week’s sermon, I focused my attention on the passage or message for that particular week.
I had a clear course charted, and I knew where I was going. Planning a series is easier than searching for a new sermon each week. An old adage says that an hour spent in planning saves three hours of work. Series preaching has proven this statement true.
By the Book
If I plan a sermon series from a particular book in the Bible, I begin reading that book through months before I start the series. I seek to understand the book’s context and general theme. I want to answer the question: What is the message of the book, and how does it apply to my congregation?
I produce a rough outIine and begin collecting information from articles, books, and journals. Consider preaching a series on the book of James titled “Marks of Spiritual Maturity.”
Consult the Calendar
Use the calendar. January is a great time to preach on spiritual revival or vision. February is a natural occasion for a short series on the biblical meaning of love. Consider how effective a series on the family would be between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Because many people are away on vacation, the summer is a good time to preach on psalms of praise. Select six or eight psalms, and you have a summer preaching plan. Address each psalm individually. Although it is still a series of sermons, if people miss a week or two, they do not miss a maior point. At the beginning of the new school year, preach on studying the Word of God.
Connect Through Church Events
Use the events of the church to develop series of messages. If your church is in a building program, preach from the book of Nehemiah and focus on Nehemiah’s vision to build the wall around Jerusalem. If you are preparing to elect officers for the new year, introduce a series on the biblical qualifications of church leaders. And every preacher longs to preach on giving during stewardship month.
Consider preaching a sermon series on the present spiritual needs of the church—messages on hope and encouragement, unity, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit can go a long ways toward healing a hurting congregation.
Guided by the Spirit
Like all good preaching, series preaching must be done through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The task of preaching is not only a business or a job, but a high calling. The task of preaching God’s Word is a great responsibility as well as a great privilege (see James 3:1). Preaching must not be done without preparation through prayer.
And be prepared for the Lord to interrupt your series! On many occasions, I have laid my plans aside to preach a particular message God put on my heart.
Series preaching is exciting preaching! It allows you to unravel the deeper mysteries of God and watch in amazement as God’s Word changes lives.
After returning from church one Sunday, a small boy said, “You know what, Mommy? I’m going to be a preacher when I grow up.”
“That’s fine,” said his mother. “But what made you decide to be a preacher?”
“Well,” said the boy thoughtfully, “I have to go to church on Sunday anyway, and I think it would be more fun to stand up and yell than to sit and listen.”
May pastors hunger to share the excitement they find in the pages of God’s Word, and may churches appreciate their pastors for feeding them manna from God.
About the Writer: After many years in the pastorate, Dr. Jeff Cockrell now serves as a professor and administrator at Welch College in Gallatin, Tennessee. Adapted from Contact Magazine.