Lord willing, we will wrap up Colossians soon and move on to 1 and 2 Thessalonians. How do we determine what to preach from Sunday to Sunday and over the course of time?
First, we try to get through “everything” every three to five years.
Paul taught the church in Ephesus “the whole counsel of God” in “three years” (Acts 20:27, 31), giving us something of a pastoral philosophy. Every few years should include a full-orbed understanding of the gospel, broader themes in the Bible, what it means to be a Christian, and how to serve God as the church. Picking a book to preach needs to be thoughtful with a view to who is here, what we’ve heard, and what we need to hear.
Second, for Sunday mornings, we preach the Word, typically a book in the New Testament, and we preach it as God Himself gave it to us.
Sunday morning is when most of us are together to receive the truth. We preach “the word” and nothing else (2 Timothy 4:2) in order for us to be a pillar and support of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). We read the Scripture, teach what it means, and exhort each other to live it out, a practice that spans the Testaments (Nehemiah 8:8; 1 Timothy 4:13).
The church began in Acts 2, and the instruction in the New Testament was written by and to the church after that point. The Old Testament instructs all believers (cf. Romans 4:23–24; 15:4), and we give priority to the New Testament because it directly instructs the church.
We preach the Word line by line, paragraph by paragraph, book by book, etc. We preach it as God Himself has given it to us. Otherwise, we get “popcorn preaching,” popping from one text to the next, leaving us malnourished and void of the regular milk and meat of God’s Word. Select sermons and an occasional mini-series can be helpful, but that should not be the norm.
During my nine years here, the only New Testament books not preached or surveyed thoroughly are Hebrews and 1 Peter. Some men are studying Hebrews, and Dr. Saxon preaches through 1 Peter when he comes. The shortest of my overviews of 1–2 Thessalonians, and its themes will be good for us to consider—our Christian witness, how to love and lead a church, and what happens when someone dies or when Christ returns.
Third, for Sunday afternoons, the Christian Life Hour, and Wednesday evenings, we try to complement Sunday mornings.
We’ve balanced Colossians with Malachi, a study of “spiritual depression,” and Genesis 1–12. We’ve shifted from Malachi to Jonah on Sunday afternoons, depression to angels in the Christian Life Hour, and, coming up for Sunday evenings, Genesis 1–12 to a mini-series called “The Good, the Bad, and the Perfect: Lessons from Children in the Bible.”