- Tim Steele
How do you choose your sermon Texts?
ROSEVILLE – Most of my ministry has been bi-vocational, primarily by my choice. And the most significant issue I had as a bi-vocational pastor was managing my time. Yet, all pastors must systematically structure their time to complete all their responsibilities each week.
Therefore, how one appropriates their time for sermon preparation is essential. And selecting the text for the following week's message may take time away from their overall preparation time.
Many pastors spend Monday and sometimes Tuesday before the following Sunday choosing their texts. But, unfortunately, this time takes away from critically assessing the text and context, meditating on its implications for them and their congregation, and developing practical applications.
Therefore, one needs a system that helps them quickly move from text selection to text analysis—choosing a text in light of their congregation's spiritual needs and preaching and instructing from all of the Bible, not just from their favorite passages.
Before one begins developing a system to select sermon texts, as the shepherd to their congregation, a pastor should know the answer to the following questions about the preaching schedules of the past.
Which passages of the Bible have already been preached? What passages haven't been done in a long time?
Have sermons from the Old and New Testaments been equally distributed?
Are there any specific topics (like stewardship or suffering) that the congregation might gain from right now?
Is there a proper division between praising God (worship), encouraging Christians (discipleship), and evangelizing unbelievers?
Are the major theological disciplines fairly represented among the doctrinal subjects?
Knowing the answers to these questions is helpful as one develops a long-term approach to selecting sermon texts. So, here are some ideas that will help one minimize their time in selecting sermon texts, with the last idea being one I have used successfully for years.
The first idea is to preach through a book of the Bible like Ephesians or a specific narrative such as Genesis 37–50. This idea allows one to develop a series of messages quickly, therefore, less time selecting a text even though one still needs to choose the length of the passage of Scripture intelligently, considering things like the genre.
Another idea is to respond through Scripture to specific issues the congregation may be experiencing. This text selection allows the listeners to observe how the Bible addresses themes essential to their spiritual growth. This type of preaching may be needed; however, a warning is necessary because this type of preaching may be considered as using the pulpit to bully people into one's positions or, depending on the topic, may come across as a sermon directed to a few select individuals in the congregation.
This last idea is the one that I have practiced for many years. I use a Sunday school quarterly. I do this for several reasons:
It gives me a scope and sequence that every six years, I will cover all the books of the Bible.
It allows me to discover all the major themes of the Bible.
It allows me to rotate between an Old Testament Book and a New Testament Book.
It automatically will enable me to package my sermons in a series.
It ensures I am never accused of picking a text that allows me to attack someone in my congregation.
If I need to preach something different from the quarterly text, I have that freedom, such as when our country experienced tragedy on 9/11.
Let me say that someone always feels a systematic system of choosing sermon texts does not allow God to speak. I would disagree.
Whatever system one uses, there is always freedom to change it if one feels God speaking from a particular passage. Second, God can use any text to address people's hearts when they come to the service focusing on hearing from God.
As Ephesians 5:16 says, making the best use of the time because the days are evil. (ESV)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Steele is the founding and Discipleship Pastor of Cross Waves Church, a house church network, and pastor of The Studio Connection in Roseville, MI. He is married to Terri, and has two adult children and one granddaughter. Tim speaks and writes on discipleship and is also a traveling stand-up comedian.