Deciding The Diet

Devising a church’s yearly preaching schedule is deceptively tricky and invariably daunting. I have learned, by painful experience I’ll add, that I must start cogitating by the start of September at least. The process of pondering continues, on and off, till early December; at which point the hard thinking, long-praying and mutual conversing will hopefully have given birth to like a plan.

Most of this creative process happens somewhat intuitively. But if I sit down to think about it, the procedure isn’t nearly as random as it first may seem. A handful of important factors carry great weight in the ‘calls’ that are made.

History. I start with the obvious question: ‘what has been preached recently’? In fact, we are even more forensic than this in our church. Thanks to the record keeping of an assiduous elder, we have kept accurate sermon records for the last twenty years. There is also another spreadsheet that is constantly updated: where we tick off, systematically, all 66 books of Holy writ. Quite recently we finished a ’round’ of the New Testament, and are down to a handful of books in the Old. We then simply restart the cycle over again. What has ‘yet to be preached’ doesn’t always dictate our choices, but we take seriously a commitment to teaching Scripture from cover to cover.

Genre. Something I nabbed from Mark Dever (about a decade ago) was the idea of ‘rotating’ through biblical genres. Though we don’t adhere to a strict order, we are cognisant of the need to balance the literature types we are covering. In 2020, for example, we are covering the genres of narrative, gospel, wisdom and apocalyptic.

Old and New. By conviction and experience I am committed to the joyful task of preaching the Old Testament. We have one Bible, not two. The Old is as full of Christ as the New, even if there is a certain subtlety at times to the pre-incarnate revelation. We will almost always try to balance our diet of Old and New throughout the year.

Desire. Needless to say, this is subjective… but there is the matter of what I want to preach. In the face of competing options I will often just opt for the book that most interests me. It might be a book I’ve never preached on before, a book I feel I don’t much understand, or it may be something that has piqued my interest in the regular round of Bible readings.

Relevance. Though I don’t put a great amount of stock in this, there is at least some thought given to the timeliness of a book. I won’t go overboard with this consideration, since I’m convinced that all Scripture is relevant all the time. Sometimes the things we think are relevant cause us to neglect other truths that we need just as much. I’ve also discovered that God by his Spirit is quite able to create a certain “timeliness” as to when a certain passage “happens” to be preached.

Space. There is sometimes the sheer practical issue of how many sermon slots are available in the calendar. If I’m sitting with 8 slots, I can’t preach that 20 week series that I’m desperate to unfold. It will need to wait till another year.

2 thoughts on “Deciding The Diet

  1. Pingback: Preaching Post Roundup (January 9, 2020) | From Text to Sermon

  2. Hi Colin

    We met briefly at my brother-in-law’s funeral. I’m glad you’ve settled in at Greenview and the church is getting a balanced diet of God’s word. I recently sent out an email (I didn’t have your email address to post you in) to some preachers suggesting the time seems to have come when we must prepare God’s people for the real possibility of persecution and how to prepare for it.

    In doing so preachers will learn how to prepare their own hearts.


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