Yesterday I spent about 45 minutes talking and praying with one of my current students. Four months ago he was invited to step into the role of youth pastor in his church, and now finds himself responsible for preparing and teaching a message every Friday and Sunday. Two messages a week! And this for someone who has only done a bit of preaching in the past… He shared with me (and I share this entire post with his permission) that the single hardest thing he has faced in his new role as youth pastor is the agonizing decision of what to preach each week.
This godly young man truly loves the Lord, but has found that the process of deciding what to talk about each week—actually, “what the Lord wants me to talk about”—is so draining that it’s starting to take a toll on his spiritual life.
What would you share with someone in such a situation? I want to pass on to you what I shared:
Preach through a book of the Bible.
That’s it. Nothing more. Choose a book of the Bible, divide it into logical preaching units (paragraphs, pericopes, oracles, psalms), and preach one of those each week until you finish the entire book. Study the passage in its context, find the central idea that holds the passage together, and identify any key points that connect with the central idea. Look for illustrations, analogies, and applications that will help you connect the passage with the lives of your listeners. Pray deeply through the passage until you “own” it. Now preach that.
He looked relieved as I unpacked this suggestion, but still seemed concerned that such an approach might not really be OK. I think he was apprehensive that what I was suggesting wasn’t truly a spiritual approach to preaching. Up until this point, he had assumed that he had to pass through a spiritually introspective process in order to choose what to preach.
I assured him that it was OK—actually, that it was more than OK. Preaching the text is the surest way to actually communicate an authoritative word from God, as opposed to merely talking about whatever you feel is the best thing to say on a given Sunday. Furthermore, meditating on a Scripture passage in preparation to teach it can also be personally edifying, a thought that the young man with whom I was speaking was relieved to consider.
This doesn’t mean that if you encounter a particular topic you would like to share, that you can’t pause from passage-to-passage preaching for a few weeks and explore the issue—as long as the topic is truly grounded in Scripture. But communicating what is actually there in the Bible has numerous benefits for preacher and congregant alike.
So, what am I preaching on Sunday? I’m preaching the Word of God.
For more, visit the Good Book Blog, a seminary faculty blog from Talbot School of Theology.