Preaching Intentionally

Canvass Cross Whatever you do, don't give preaching your scraps. It deserves more than that. Teaching God's Word is an honor worthy of our best energies and efforts. I know, it's easier said than done. That's why I and many other preachers I know have to take some serious action to keep preaching consistently with intentionality. Whatever your method, preaching consistently and with intentionally are among the preacher's great challenges.

Each year, I take a study break in order to map out the next year's worth of sermons.  I come back from that study time with the series subject, the major text for each day, and the "big idea" of that day for each Sunday of the year. I then revisit the choices 1 quarter out to make sure I still like them and still feel led that direction. It's also here that I pull together a creative team to help choose series themes and titles to go with the Then, I nail them down firmly about a month out. Wednesday is my primary message preparation day week-to-week.

That's how I go about it.

In general, all my sermons are expository–even sermons that are on specific topics (such as prayer) are preached from a primary text.  This helps me avoid preaching my biases, and keeps the Word in it's rightful place as the primary teacher of the church. In general, 2/3 of my series are book studies, and 1/3 is expository preaching on practical theology or Christian living. Jesus is given preeminence in subject matter, and there is almost always a "gospel tie-in" to every message. We always make an attempt to package them creatively. Most series last 6-8 weeks. I've preached series as long as 4 months, and as short as 3 weeks.Timing matters a lot–both the length of the series and the time-of-year in which the series is preached.

Some preachers in Churches of Christ have made a shift to the lectionary as a way of keeping balance in their preaching. I believe that while helpful in some important ways, that approach has it's weaknesses as well: lack of flexibility, failure to cover the entire Bible, etc. So, I've formed a mini-lectionary of my own. In a calendar year, I'll preach something on each of the following subjects while maintaining the balance listed above.

  • Old Testament book study
  • New Testament book study
  • Gospels book study
  • Practical Theology/Spiritual Disciplines (baptism, prayer, Bible study, etc.)
  • Doctrine
  • Family Life
  • Generosity/Stewardship

I would love to hear some of your thoughts on preaching, even if you don't preach. What has been helpful? What could preachers do better? Are there topics preachers avoid they should preach more?

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Share Your Thoughts

2 thoughts on “Preaching Intentionally

  1. Tim, you’ve written a great post. I particularly like your comment regarding the importance of preaching intentionally. I really believe that being intentional not only gives a church a better exposure to Scripture.
    One added benefit for the preacher relates to stress. This kind of preparation can greatly reduce the stress of the preacher. (Contrasted to preaching each week with no clue about what is even going to happen the following Sunday.)

  2. Like you, I’m pretty meticulous in my planning. I find that planning far in advance actually increases my creativity week-to-week. My calendar is as follows:
    I start w/ Easter — instead of a finish line, I view it as the starting line.
    After Easter I preach a “felt needs” series. This year I did something dealing w/ stress.
    Around Mother’s Day I do some kind of relationship series — parenting or marriage or friendship or forgiveness.
    During the summer I try to do one or two loosely-linked series — something where you don’t have to be here for part 2 in order to understand part 4. This year I did different encounters people had w/ Jesus. I’ve also done parables. You could do doctrinal issues here.
    In the fall I like to do two spiritual growth series — spiritual disciplines work well here. Practical theology is also good here in the fall. People seem to be in “back to school mode”.
    I do a Christmas series after Thanksgiving.
    In January I try to do something about the church — not a “state of the church address” but something about why church is what it is and what church could/should be.
    In February/March I do a text — a book or a chunk — Sermon on the Mount — Romans 6-8 — James — something like that. This year I plan to preach through the Bible in 10 weeks.
    That leads me to an evangelistic pre-Easter series. I may do apologetics here or something that really drives home the message of salvation.
    That, of course, takes us back to the starting line of Easter again.
    Thoughts on doing sermon planning in community? And do you have a creative team to help you think of programming elements (special songs, props, etc)?