HOW WE DECIDE WHAT TO PREACH
We sometimes get asked how we decide what to preach on at Redeemer. This is a general overview of he head, heart and hands (persuasion/ passion and practicalities) of how sermon series are decided upon at Redeemer.
PERSUASION & PASSION
We believe there are numerous styles/methods that can be used to preach and decide upon preaching series – there seems no biblically restrictive guideline on WHAT to preach when, and HOW to do it. The Bible reflects a variety of methods. One essential factor is to aim to ‘preach the whole counsel of God’ (Acts 20:27) in some way. For us that means ensuring a balance of topics and styles (e.g. exegetical, topical, character led).
Regarding what it means to ‘preach the whole counsel of God’, D. A. Carson is very helpful; (http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2007/11/20/preaching-whole-counsel-of-god/)
When Paul attests that this is what he proclaimed to the believers in Ephesus, the Ephesian elders to whom he makes this bold asseveration know full well that he had managed this remarkable feat in only two and a half years. In other words, whatever else Paul did, he certainly did not manage to go through every verse of the Old Testament, line by line, with full-bore explanation. He simply did not have time. What he must mean is that he taught the burden of the whole of God’s revelation, the balance of things, leaving nothing out that was of primary importance, never ducking the hard bits, helping believers to grasp the whole counsel of God that they themselves would become better equipped to read their Bibles intelligently, comprehensively. It embraced
- God’s purposes in the history of redemption (truths to be believed and a God to be worshiped),
- an unpacking of human origin, fall, redemption, and destiny (a worldview that shapes all human understanding and a Saviour without whom there is no hope),
- the conduct expected of God’s people (commandments to be obeyed and wisdom to be pursued, both in our individual existence and in the community of the people of God), and
- the pledges of transforming power both in this life and in the life to come (promises to be trusted and hope to be anticipated).
PRACTICALITIES & EXPECTATIONS
Practically then at Redeemer, the elders are primarily responsible for forming and preparing the sermon series and preachers. We have 4 guiding reasons why we pick a series. These are helpful guidelines for us, and not restrictive rules!
When we see the Bible as the ultimate authority we simply choose to work our way through it over the years.
The strength in this means that you will have a balanced diet of topics and will be forced to preach on things you perhaps wouldn't want to. The challenge can be that if there are other things you really feel the church needs to hear about, but aren't covered in your ‘current’ text, you can try and bend scripture to cover it in unhelpful way.
This is where the decision is made to preach on a subject in a series because it simply needs to be covered. It is not necessarily that there is a lack in this area, or a particular desire to preach on it from the elders. But in a kind of ‘you need to eat your greens’ family kind of way this approach to a sermon series I think is legitimate. Rick Warren has stated that there are five key elements to a healthy church; worship, fellowship, discipleship, serving, and evangelism. He says to focus on church health not church growth, and systematically makes sure each of these five main areas has a sermon series that preaches into theme every year. The strength of this approach is the producing of a balanced people.
This is when a book or theme is chosen because of a loving concern from the elders. It is driven from an observation of church culture more than a prophetic burden. As overseers we have the privilege and responsibility of observing trends. And so we yearn to see people made aware of potential wrong thinking or wrong behaviour that may be church-wide to some degree. It is more bottom-up driven than top-down driven.
This is very top-down approach i.e. a strong sense from God that he wants to impress something to a greater measure into his church family. It can come from a variety of settings but the overall effect is an unavoidable deep frustration in the heart of the leaders that God has placed there and wants to pour into his church.