I have spent tons of gut-wrenching hours sitting over my computer with my head in my hands, sipping coffee, praying, looking at what other preachers are preaching, reading books, trying to be creative, analyzing culture, and wondering why I ever said “yes, I’ll be a preacher”.
Why? Because I was trying to figure out what I was going to preach about next.
Quite frankly I came to hate it!
I am not super cool, sexy, or creative. I’m a normal dude that loves Jesus and is called by God to preach and teach His Word… and I dig that.
Coming up with the next topic and theme and then branding and yada, yada, yada was eating my lunch!
And then I had an idea…
Well actually it wasn’t so much of an epiphany as an escape. I was burned out and simply didn’t know what to preach next. So I thought, “I’ll just preach through a book of the Bible, and while I’m doing that I’ll surely come up with the next theme/topic.” In other words, I’ll buy some time for the creative process to work while teaching verse by verse through a book of the Bible.”
Little did I know that decision would transform my preaching and the lives of the people in our church!
Since I’ve started preaching verse by verse through the Bible a few things have happened:
- I don’t stress out about where my next sermon is going to come from. I just move to the next “chunk” (“pericope” for you scholars) and teach what it says.
- I get to talk about things that might not normally come up (e.g. how to live as a Christian when you don’t like the government – 1 Peter 2:13-17). We are shaping a biblical worldview because we discuss such a wide variety of subjects as we journey through the Bible (this week we’re talking about Christians in the workplace – 1 Peter 2:18-25).
- I can speak with authority and strength because I say, “See what it says?” and then point to it on the screen! These aren’t my ideas pieced together with a smattering of verses and a few supporting and sexy quotes! This is God’s idea and you can see that as we read the verses together in context!
- The people at our church are learning how to read and study the Bible because they see it done every week… we read a “chunk” and apply it to our lives! I also encourage our church to read along with the series!
- When we are done teaching through a book of the Bible we own that book! We understand it! We point back to it and reference it frequently on our journey!
Now I’m not saying…
that topical teaching is bad. We’ll still do topical teaching a couple of times per year at strategically located times.
What I am saying is that verse by verse teaching has made sermon prep easier, given me a stronger platform from which to teach, and helped our people see how Bible study and application is done.
Interested in trying it? Here are a few tips that have helped me:
- Before I teach through a book I read, and read, and read it looking for the theme or themes of the author, and natural “chunks” or divisions. I make my own outline and then look at 5-8 different sources (Study Bibles, commentaries, etc.) to see if I’m close. I make adjustments, and then I have my teaching schedule.
- I name the series (e.g. 1 Peter is called “Standout” because that is what he is calling us to do in this world… live “standout” lives). The theme (e.g. “Standout”) is regularly referred to throughout the series.
- Typically I try to read the book of the Bible I’m teaching every day or at least several times per week. This familiarity with the book helps me as I am collecting stories, quotes, ideas, etc for the weeks to come. When I come across an idea, story, etc. I write it down and file it to be used later on in the series.
- Every week I print out, in four different Bible translations (NAS, NIV, NLT, and MSG), the “chunk” that I will be teaching that weekend. I read those verses over, and over, and over, and make notes on my pieces of paper.
- Then I read three commentaries and gather ideas, quotes, etc., and either confirm or adjust the thoughts I had about the passage which I will be teaching on.
- After praying, reading, thinking, and studying I collect all of the “stuff” I have and write the sermon!
Over the last year I have taught through:
- The Song of Solomon – 4 weeks
- Romans – 8 weeks
- James – 13 weeks
- And now we are in 1 Peter for 16 weeks!
Sermon prep is so much more fun than it used to be! I can give more time now to studying now that I’m not trying to figure out what to study!
One more thing…
When will we do topical series?
We will always do a series on marriage and money every year. While these topics pop up regularly throughout the year I think it is important to spend time focusing on these two matters in a compact manner at least yearly… but that’s just me. You’ll have to figure out what that looks like for you and your church.
So there it is… a great way to make your sermon prep easier is to teach through books of the Bible!
What’s your experience in teaching through books of the Bible?