Random Monday Thoughts on Preaching Styles

Pastors tend to spend a lot of time obsessing about preaching and teaching, while the rest of society thinks about it, like never. But, it’s Monday and I spoke at New Life yesterday and still wonder if I’m any good, (this is the part that is supposed to motivate you to give me a lot of compliments), but Pam and the kids thought it was great and that’s most important.

Anyway, about a year ago, I underwent a philosophical shift in the way I preach each week. For years, I was a part of a world that primarily taught sermon series on various topics for 4-6 weeks, each series complete with a cool logo, title and sermon bumper (that is the trendy video that plays right before the pastor magically appears on stage).

Strengths of the sermon series approach to preaching:

1. You can tackle topics that are important to the congregation in a timely way. For example, if marriages seem to be struggling, you can talk about marriage, etc.

2. You can go deeper on topics that need extra time to teach, like eschatology (that’s a fancy preacher word that means the end times).

Weaknesses:

1. You can skip over the hard topics and just talk about the happy ones. In other words, we can talk about the blessings without talking about suffering or sacrifice.

2. You can drain the life out of your creative team trying to be better or more clever than the last series. Cool one word titles can slide down the cheese hill really quick. Our title for the teachings from Luke is … Luke.

My approach for the past year is to walk through books of the Bible story by story, capturing all the big ideas of the book. I have preached through Ephesians, 1 Peter, and for the past 30 weeks, through Luke. I plan to tackle Acts for the first part of 2012.

Strengths of the book approach:

1. You cannot skip over the hard topics. The past two weeks I have taught out of Luke 16, which focuses on two difficult topics for most pastors — hell and money.

2. Hermeneutics (another fancy word for studying the Bible) is embraced more completely.  Who wrote the passage? Who was he talking to? Why did he use specific language? What was going on in the culture at the time?

3. You have to teach on all the topics and ideas that Jesus and the apostle’s taught their churches and followers. It builds a more complete disciple in the long run (just my opinion, but it is my blog).

Weaknesses:

1. Missed opportunities to preach about topics that are trending socially. For example, on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, we were in Luke 14, which did not contain a ready made memorial message.

2. Missed opportunities to camp out for several weeks on topics that need deeper explanation.

For the record, I think both approaches have merit for the local church and it’s the job of the pastor to listen to what God is saying and obey. Don’t get stuck in a sermon rut. It is possible, and even probable, that some fresh new ideas may be exactly what all of us need.

Monday ramblings are now over. I need to sign off because Sundays come around with alarming regularity and I need to start fretting over the next sermon (leave nice comments below).

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11 Comments

  1. Pastor B,
    You know you are my preaching guru! (gush, gush) Sunday’s message was fantastic and don’t let the devil tell you any different. (grovel, grovel)
    I give your delivery a 10, your points a 10 and your outfit a 12. (genuflect, genuflect)

    But seriously, the best part about your style is that you are completely real. Thanks for your leadership!
    KT

  2. Great post!!! I hope others in the circle in which you tend to run read it! Preach the bible… the whole thing not just what works for your creative team. Make disciples. Love it!

  3. Brady,

    I like the last part the best.

    “Don´t get stuck in” whatever it is. The wind blows wherever it pleases. …. you know the end of this one already, you are the pastor. 🙂 There is no drawer or box for what really counts. Haven´t listened to the podcast yet so I cannot say something about it.
    Have a blessed week.

  4. Pastor B you did a great job!! I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the way you face the Truth, speak the Truth, tell yourself and your flock the Truth. 2 weeks and 2 difficult topics…..and you have done an excellent job of teaching God’s word! Thank You!

    From Sunday’s message: The question “How could a Loving God send people to Hell?” is not even the right question! The correct question is “How can WE reject God’s Free gift of Salvation and Eternity with Him?”

    Could use your family’s prayers this week!! My “mother’s heart” breaks for one of my children!! ty

  5. Brady,

    Concerning your comment above “still wonder if I’m any good,” answer is…..drum roll please……yes. Now that I’ve stroked your ego, get back to work. 🙂

    Seriously, both methods work and both are appropriate, I see nothing wrong with teching your way through a book in the bible, stopping temporarily to do a side-bar teaching on a special topic as the Holy Spirit guides you, before coming back to the book you are working through. In fact, I would be surprised if you didn’t do that on occassion. You only need to ensure you communicate with the church congregation what you are doing and why; and I’m sure we would all be supportive.

    Plus it makes you look hip and in tune with things. LOL

    v/r

    Bull

  6. We all love your sermons at our house P.B.! We live in L.A. and every Sunday we make sure to connect our laptop to our big screen LED HD TV (so that we can see and hear you better) to worship and feast together from all the annoiting that’s at NLC. I have been following your instructions to read the chapter the week before service and look at it with new eyes. And I must confess that the not knowing what story you’ll be teaching on is like a season finale cliffhanger on my favorite TV show. We are so blessed by what the Lord is doing through all of you! Thank you for being such a willing vessel. Agape, Torres Fam.

  7. Simon Baggerman

    October 4, 2011 at 12:59 am

    Otherwise I already found your preaching to have quite some exegetical elements in them anyway. I was myself introduced to this way of preaching when reading a magnificent book on this by J. Kent Edwards, Deep preaching.

    Thank you for your faithfulness in wanting to preach “the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God”! 😉

  8. What KT said…

    Trendy makes me tired.

  9. Brady thanks so much for the message this last Sunday! I think it is so important to talk about the difficult things becuase how else do we grow and change. I think that you do a good job in balancing fear of the Lord and the love of the Lord and our responsibility in the process. I also believe that you do a great job at listening to the Holy Spirit and preaching with heart and conviction. I appreciate all that you are doing at New Life and am grateful that you are our pastor. Have a wonderful day!!

  10. I missed the third major sermon preaching style – preaching on the lectionary. Check it out!

  11. I find it interesting that you outline the positives and negatives of both. Acknowledge that both have strengths and weaknesses than choose one.

    Since when was either of these styles actually the Biblical style? People often ignorantly make drop comments like, yes expository, exegetical preaching is preaching the Bible. Funny that it is not expressed in either scripture or history, all of the Apostles would have failed in doing so otherwise. “Preach the word” when used in scripture is to the broad will and word of God not systematic verse by verse teaching.

    I personally teaching often in book series and I encourage it. I would rather preach what God is telling us to preach, whether it is topical or book by book, otherwise you might just not lead people in “topics that need deeper explanation.” just so you can explain details of the context of a book that was topically written to another context without thought to the word to the church now.

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