Thursday, February 26, 2015

Do people in small churches want in-depth preaching?

Do people attending small churches want in-depth Bible preaching? Some people doubt that they do. We've all heard complaints about how many in our churches have a shallow faith and are not interested in sound biblical preaching. Maybe it's because they've not been exposed to such preaching in the past.

As I think of many of the small churches in the area in which I live, for years many of them were served by student pastors. These pastors usually stayed for a couple of years until they graduated from seminary, and then they moved on. Short tenured pastorates do not lend themselves to in-depth preaching.

Most of my regular readers know I was the bivocational pastor of my small, rural church for 20 years. My experience was that our congregation enjoyed in-depth sermon series and grew theologically as a result of them. After a few years at the church I began a habit of preaching through a book of the Bible after Father's Day. If I remember correctly, the book of Romans took about 18 weeks, Sunday morning and night, to complete. Nobody complained, and most seemed to enjoy the opportunity to go deeper in this book of the Bible. I did similar series with other books of the Bible. The series I preached on the Sermon on the Mount was another lengthy series, but it was so rich in all that it taught.

Although I was reluctant to do so, the congregation urged me to preach through the book of Revelation. I finally agreed to but only on Sunday nights. It took an entire year to complete that series.

We did other lengthy series as well.  Twice, we did a "Journey Through the Bible" on Sunday nights. We purchased notebooks that had outlines of the series for each family. This was a way to give people an overview of the entire Bible in one year. It was another rewarding exercise.

When you preach through books of the Bible you are able to go much deeper in a passage than in a single sermon. You also can't skip over the difficult passages. Every preacher has certain favorite Bible themes that he or she enjoys preaching, and we all have those topics we would prefer to ignore. When you preach through an entire book you have to cover it all. That's good discipline for the preacher and for the congregation.

Another advantage to preaching through a book of the Bible is that it makes sermon planning much easier. You don't have to wonder what you are going to preach next week; you just pick up where you left off. That is a huge time saver for a bivocational minister. You can also assure you have the study tools available to help you prepare your message. Once I determined which book I was going to preach through I would purchase two to four good commentaries on that book to assist me in my preparation.

As you think about your preaching calendar for 2015 I hope you'll consider preaching a lengthy sermon series. I think you will find that it will help your congregation deepen their faith and their understanding of the Bible.

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