Have you ever faced a new year or a new term needing to put together a preaching roster?
Where do you start? Will you preach a new series? Work through a book of the Bible? Unpack some practical life topics? How can you make your preaching relevant, engaging, meaty enough for the deep thinkers, simple enough for enquirers and beginners? It’s easy to find your thoughts going in circles while the blank screen in front of you waits patiently for your inspiration. You know that it is critical to make best use of this small window of time in the week of God’s people … they have set aside their valuable time to come and hear from God. They need inspiration and encouragement, truth and training, correction and care … and all in a few short minutes! They could have been sleeping in, picnicing with family, shopping or jogging, but they are here … waiting … expectant … no pressure!!
We all want to preach Biblical truth that is accurate and helpful. The problem is, in the Bible there is a lot of truth to choose from! When we look at the Scriptures, it’s all good – so how do we decide which ‘good’ we need to focus on at the moment? At this macro level, when planning a term’s preaching (or a year’s), there are a few things it may be helpful to keep in mind, that will act as guideposts in the process. The three guideposts I have found most helpful are vision / culture, listening to the Spirit, and sitting under the Word. Let me explain …
Vision and Culture
A clearly articulated, Spirit-Led vision and core values will provide a helpful starting place. What vision has God put on the heart of the leadership, and is there a theme or priority that God is highlighting? What goals will help achieve this? How can the preaching contribute to the accomplishment of these goals? We recently completed a re-visioning journey as a church and identified our key goal for this year – to develop deep heart relationships with God, each other and our community. This goal then became the framework to help us focus our year’s preaching. Last year we had a focus on the kingdom cultures we wanted to see as part of our church family life – and preached through the year, spending a month on each of these. Viewing the preaching year through the lens of vision, goals and culture, ensures that the truth shared each Sunday becomes a purposeful part of creating the kind of community that will accomplish their God-given purpose.
Listening to the Spirit
Once you have identified some key areas you want to preach into, (from the goal outlined above, our key areas were (1) Intimacy with God, (2) Healthy relationships in the body, and (3) Connecting effectively with pre-believers), take time to listen to God for His wisdom in each of these areas. Is there a Book of Scripture or a whole Bible theme that speaks directly to any of these areas? Is there a resource that would dovetail your preaching with your small group ministry? (eg. We are planning to use Blackaby’s Experiencing God material to assist us in helping people grow in their intimacy with God) Is there a gifted member of your local congregation or a speaker who carries a grace to bring truth in one of the identified areas? (live or via media) What does God say is on His heart, as you take time to listen and wait on Him?
Sitting Under the Word
This is a term I use to try and describe a critical difference in how we approach the Scripture. I’m sure there are a number of technical terms for it – but the thought itself is simple. Do I find and use the verses or sections from the Scriptures that back up what I want say? Or do I come and ‘sit under’ God’s Word, allowing it to say what it says, and bringing my thoughts and ways into alignment with what God wants to say. This is a significant distinction – when we preach from a place of submission to the Word – even when it is uncomfortable or mysterious – our preaching comes with far greater authority and impact as the Holy Spirit takes what is from God and releases it directly to the hearts of people – usually starting with us!
Having said all this …. be ready to abandon the planned program if the Holy Spirit is leading elsewhere! Even our best planning is no substitute for His leading! Romans 8:14