I wrote this one before I wrote yesterday’s column, so some of it repeats what it says.
How do you select a text to preach?
That’s the first question that truly bothers the pastoral Candidate.
Charles Spurgeon heard in Seminary someone say, “Anyone who cannot think of a text to preach should leave the clergy.”
I disagree with the term “Clergy”, as I don’t divide classes of “clergy” and “laity”. But the point was, it almost caused Spurgeon to resign! The issue is, there are not too few sermons to preach, but too many!
Here’s Four options:
- Use a lectionary. Believe it or not, this may be the most historical method. Of the many texts of the Greek Bible, (and yes, I’m only referring to the Syrian lineage, and not the Alexandrian false texts!!!), quite a few are lectionaries. Why? The earliest Baptists were all Jewish – Matthew, Peter, James, John, Andrew, etc. Jews divide their year into weekly readings of the Torah (the five books of Moses) and the Haftorah (the prophets). No surprise, but Lectionaries were quickly made for Christian churches which added the Gospels to the Torah, and the Epistles to the Haftorah. The surviving ones we have today hold only the New Testament versions. I’m not a big fan of this, since using a Lectionary gets the congregation into the mindset of only reading the Lectionary and not their Bible. I know, because Logos comes with an Episcopal Lectionary for free… and within a month, I could see how an unbelieving spirit arises from that. Dead ritual. But look into it, and decide if that’s going to be your route.
- Preach Topically. Grab your Torrey’s or your Nave’s, and look up a topic – and start preaching. This was the method my former pastor wanted me to do, except he never said anything about Topical Bibles. you could start in “A” and make your way to the last letter of the alphabet, which escapes my recollection at this point.
- Preach Expository. This week – Start Genesis 1:1-31 or Matthew 1:1-17. How do you know the breaks? You could try READING it and see where you find a satisfactory break. Or, if you’re bi-vocational (as most IFB pastors are!), open your Logos to the start page, and type in “Gn” or “mt”. The drop down shows the preaching breaks. Choose one and start. This is the method I’m trying.
- Reading Cycle. Grab a reading cycle list, look at what this week’s chapters are, and pick something from in there to preach expositorily. I’m writing this July 10, so today I’d be preaching from something from Psalm 105 to Proverbs 4. Anything that jumped out in my mind. This method is the one urged in the Halley’s Bible Handbook (I think this was removed in more recent editions…?) The entire congregation will be reading along, and it will encourage everyone to read through in a year. File that sermon in your Wordsearch Sermons or in The Pastor’s Library (if you were fortunate to find it before it disappeared) so you don’t preach on that for years. I found during that time that my pastors were suddenly out of commission and I and the other Seminary student were IT, that putting everything in the Pastor’s Study program was a GREAT resource.
I’m pretty much settled on option #3 at this point. Sunday Mornings should be Matthew – Revelation in my opinion. Sunday nights can be Genesis – Malachi. WEdnesday night, if you’re going to preach, perhaps choose a topical sermon.
Now, if you REALLY want to confuse yourself, and make sure your Friday afternoon is agonizing… just read your Bible and pick a text at random! “Which one???” That’s an agonizing place to be caught in. You are to “Preach the word.” “Hunt and peck” is a poor method, leaving huge texts unaddressed, huge topics left unchallenged. By preaching expositorily, you end up addressing sooner or later every topic in the Bible.