I am currently preaching through 2 Samuel. Having just preached through 2 Samuel 11 these last three weeks, I was reminded of the challenge it is to systematically preach through whole books of the Bible. And yet, in the midst of being reminded of these challenges, the reasons to continue to do so have been affirmed to me all over again. Here are three of them:

1) You cannot avoid the hard passages. Two weeks ago I preached on David’s adultery and murder. Yesterday, it moved to an interesting progression of rape, incest, and murder among David’s children. Let’s just say not what I would choose to preach if I was just picking a passage for the week. But our people need to hear these passages and we as pastors need to wrestle with them to figure out what God desires for us to learn from them. Preach the hard passages. If your congregation sees you are not afraid to wrestle with them, then they are certain to grow less afraid also.

2) You understand the author’s intent better. It amazes me how much better I feel I understand the writer’s intent, because I have preached through the natural flow of his argument or narrative. I linked David’s adultery back to David’s acceptance of a second wife in 1 Samuel 1. I did not read that in a commentary, but felt it was relevant as I saw it through the lens of the progression of the narrative as I preached through it. That is one of many examples of connections within the narrative I have seen that I know I would not have, unless I was pouring over the narrative myself week after week.

3) Our people learn how to read their own Bibles. Pastors are teaching their people how to approach and understand their Bibles by whatever the steady, weekly preaching diet is in their church. When we commit ourselves to preaching through books of the Bible to understand and deal with all its content, we are teaching our people to do the same on their own.

I am not at all against topical preaching. There is a place for it. But allow me to push a bit on what the steady diet of your congregation is and what the fruit of that diet is within it. Your people should be growing in their love and knowledge of God’s Word. They should be learning how to better read their own Bibles. As I experienced yesterday, they should be growing less afraid of the hard, difficult passages nobody would choose to preach.

So are they?

Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He is also the author of Visit the Sick: Ministering God’s Grace in Times of Illness and Test, Train, Affirm, and Send into Ministry: Recovering the Local Church’s Responsibility to the External Call. He blogs on matters of Practical Shepherding.