One of the joys of expositional preaching is preaching through a book of the Bible. Great joy and real challenges exist in preaching through books of the Bible, but I want to focus on the benefits for the congregation.
First, they are receiving the actual word of God, not just thoughts about the word of God. I’m not being critical of topical preaching. For topical preaching should also be expositional. But if one is not careful it is easy to get off into the preacher’s thoughts about the topic rather than teaching what the Bible is saying.
Another benefit of teaching through a book of the Bible is it allows the preacher to know where he is preaching each week. He can walk into his study on Monday and know where to open his Bible and begin to get ready for the coming Sunday.
Preaching through Bible books also allows the congregation the opportunity to be reading ahead. This can also be a challenge. When your people are reading ahead it will require the preacher to spend more time studying and preparing. You want to feed the people. This desire is enhanced when you know the people are reading further in the scripture. Another benefit (and challenge) is you can’t skip the difficult passages. In every book there are portions of scripture that are difficult to interpret and apply to life. But when you announce you are preaching through a particular book you must be willing to plow through challenging passages. Your people want to know about those verses. But as you struggle with them, and bring meaning to the congregation, your people will be blessed. And they will be thankful you are willing to do the hard work.
Thoughts on making it happen; How do we prepare to preach through a book of the Bible?
1. Preach out of the need of your people.
I don’t think we just pick a book and say, “Well, this one will work.” We are shepherds. Pastors must know where the people are spiritually. Once a pastor understands the spiritual needs of his people it is easier to decide on what book to preach. If your people are struggling with unity, the book of Acts is a great book of instruction. If your people are needing to grow in their devotion to the Lord, many of Paul’s letters will give them wonderful truth in this area. Ask the Lord to show you where your people are spiritually. He
will direct you in the selection of a book.
2. Read the book through in one sitting, several times.
Once you have chosen a book of the Bible, read through that book in one sitting. And do it several times. I don’t mean read through the book two or three times non-stop. I mean take a week and read through the book every day. Maybe you read through the book in the morning and then again in the evening. It is my practice to read through a book many times. I want to read through a book until I can tell you what is “coming next.” Familiarity with a book is critical. This will help you start breaking the book into bite size portions. Knowing what is coming next will help you keep everything in context.
3. Break the book up into obvious groups of verses.
The paragraphs and sentences of a Bible book will have natural and obvious breaks. After you are familiar with the book because of many readings, read the book one more time. This time look for obvious breaks in the content of the book. These breaks will become what I call “sermon slices”. Your sermons will come from those slices of scripture.
4. Now you are ready to do sermon prep.
This is when the history of the book, the grammar of the book, authorship, etc. enters your preparation.
5. Give the book a theme.
Every book of the Bible has a theme. But the theme one pastor gives a book may not be the one you would give it. Remember
you are preaching out of the needs of your people. For example some might give the book of Philippians the theme of “Joy in
difficult days.” But when I preached through Philippians I gave it the theme of “Living out the abundant life.” Our people needed
abundant living. This theme helped me take the people where I felt we needed to go at the time. This allowed me to develop all the sermons around a need in the church. And it fed the people. I sincerely pray this has been a help to you. Enjoy preaching through books of the Bible.
Ted Kersh is a long-time Oklahoma Baptist pastor, recently retired, and serves as a coach for Tall Oaks.
Ted can be reached at email@example.com.