Sunday, December 02, 2007

Preaching program

What principles are important when putting together a year's worth of sermons for a local church? How long should each series be? What should be the balance of sequential exegetical/theological/topical sermons? What should be the balance of NT/OT? Who should preach? Should there be one main preacher? How many others? Ought there to be any non-sermon weeks? How significant are the lectionary and traditional church seasons?
Eight points for correctly naming the Sydney church.

12 comments:

Anthony Douglas said...

I'll lead off with the easiest:

It should be a year's worth of sermons.

How can you possibly plan more than a week in advance if your preaching program doesn't go beyond the end of the series? How can you read in advance, or have creative ideas about how to work through larger books? How can you hope to stay sane?!

Yet I keep coming across people who don't work this way. I can't figure out how they can do it. And in a team ministry context, it's even more important: others may not be so happy-go-lucky, and still others (lay preachers, for example) might need a fair bit of warning to prepare effectively.

Ok, can't resist the chance to comment on the last question. Out here, the traditional church seasons are soccer season, and soccer off-season. And they're quite significant! You need a big carrot around finals time...

byron smith said...

Yes, great point about planning ahead. I'd just assumed this, though I know some churches don't. I've recently heard of one church which leaves three or four weeks of the program throughout the year intentionally blank so that unforeseen things arising either in the congregation or wider society can be addressed.

Donna said...

If memory serves (because I can't find my notes) David Cook would say that you could have one gospel, one other NT, one OT and one topical sermon series in the year, and each 5th Sunday in the month should be a Psalm. He also recommends that the preaching in the morning and evening should be on a different roster. So I guess the principle at work there, is breadth of exposure to different parts of the bible.

I like the idea of having some Sundays which are flexible (like the Psalms ones could easily be in the above) because there's nothing more frustrating than having a big event happen in public or church life (like the death of a core church member) and having only passing reference to it in the sermon and not having "enough time" to focus on it as a congreagation, doing things like have people give encouraging testimony about their life.

There should always be preaching of the word, but not necessarily always a "sermon". I don't think the sermon format is always the best way to impact people with the Word - I think we can, and should, be more creative than that.

If there are qualified people in the congregation, why not let them also preach? How often should they preach? As often as they are able to give encouraging and beneficial preaching.

I think a wide range of people should preach, people from diverse backgrounds who bring different perspectives to the text. Women should also preach, for that reason, and because it's good missiology to our feminist culture (though, only those women who think it's not disobedient for women to preach to men should do so).

I love hearing people's testimonies - there should be a bigger place for hearing each others' testimonies in church services.

Wow Byron, so many questions. There are some of my thoughts about them all...

byron smith said...

Thanks Donna - lots of interesting thoughts there. I particularly agree about the 'sermon' format being one option among a number of ways of encountering the word. Why different morning/evening roster? Does he assume/encourage people to come twice? Otherwise, isn't it doubling the workload for the staff team (or other preachers)?

Donna said...

I think he said that he didn't want to discourage people from coming twice.

You could preach repeat morning sermons in the evening, but just not at the same time, maybe the next year...

What are your thoughts on these issues?

One of Freedom said...

Personally I left the frustration of planning out series of messages for the joy of preaching the lectionary. I preach almost every week and always from the lectional reading. One community is younger than the other so in the younger one I stick with the gospel reading as my primary text and in the other one I am more flexible.

Now I am preaching in house church settings, but when I am asked to guest preach (which happens about every second month) I almost always use the lectional text unless they ask for something specific.

What I do plan out are specific teaching workshops, but this is based on the needs in the communities that I pastor. The longest one I planned was a year long ministry prep course (a session every two weeks).

One Salient Oversight said...

I had an idea a while ago - Let your preaching program be partly determined by the choice of the congregation, partly by the preacher's choice, and partly random selection (picking a bible book out of a hat).

byron smith said...

Donna - we've talked about having a fortnight/month lag between morning and evening, but hadn't considered a whole year. I guess we'd need to start with a year's worth of double sermons before we could gain the benefits.

I think it's fair enough to try to avoid discouraging people from coming twice. Yet preparing two sermons raises an important related question: how long ought to be spent on sermon preparation each week?

byron smith said...

Frank, I'm attracted to the idea of using the lectionary and will suggest that we base at least some of our expository preaching next year on it (we're having a meeting this week to plan 2008 sermons). Do you think there is any place for preaching that takes its theme from a doctrine or contemporary issue alongside lectionary-based sequential exposition? Or is this the sort of material you cover in the workshops you mention? How frequently do you hold such workshops and in what context?

byron smith said...

Neil, having read your post, I like the idea of building in greater congregational consultation regarding sermon selection, as part of encouraging all believers to take an active role in their own spititual health and growth. However, I'm not persuaded by the idea of randomly-selected content. I know you're a fan of randomness in other contexts (esp. Demarchy) and agree that it can be a useful tool for solving some problems (personally, I wonder whether we oughtn't have a coin toss in weddings to determine which surname the new couple adopts), but I don't think I'd link it to being a clearer expression of the will of God than thoughtful wisdom. We trust our preachers (often with the help of scholars, friends, the congregation, overseers, etc) to listen diligently to the scriptures and prepare a sermon that expounds them. Is there a reason that a similar trust (with a similar assumption of help from scholars, peers, congregation, episcopacy, etc.) might not be extended regarding the selection of texts?

Anthony Douglas said...

St Stephen's Newtown?

byron smith said...

Eight more.