What to Preach???

One of the biggest problems many preachers face is deciding what book or topic they should preach on next. Obviously for the expository preacher this problem occurs less frequently. The expositor has no other choice but to preach through the next passage of Holy Scripture. This is the joy and the challenge of expository preaching.

But how does an expositor determine which book of the Bible they ought to preach through next? When is it time to start a brief topical series instead of another lengthy in-depth fifty part series through Nahum?

I recently came across a comment written by John Calvin that in some ways helps solve this problem. Calvin wrote, “We hence learn that a good and faithful pastor ought wisely to consider what the present state of the Church requires, so as to accommodate his doctrine to its wants.” Dr. Calvin is not advocating Rick Warren ministry (preach to the “felt needs”). He is simply saying a good pastor will discern the real spiritual needs of his sheep and respond appropriately.

Some preachers are so disconnected from their flock that they could never apply this pastoral advice. I know this is a temptation I often face. I get so into the Word that I am tempted to neglect my other pastoral responsibilities (administration, counseling, discipleship, evangelism, etc). This is the advantage of being a complete pastor-teacher/shepherd/elder. I have found the better I know my congregation (my flock) the easier it is to apply Calvin’s principle.

If your church needs help in ecclesiology why not preach through the Pastoral Epistles? If your church is struggling with joy and unity take your congregation through Philippians. If your church is apathetic in evangelism teach through the book of Acts. If your church body is ready to embrace the doctrines of grace why not begin a series on Ephesians? If your church has become self-centered begin a series on the “one-anothers.”

The more you love your sheep and the better you know their spiritual needs the more effective preaching ministry you will have. I believe that is what John Calvin was simply trying to say. “We hence learn that a good and faithful pastor ought wisely to consider what the present state of the Church requires, so as to accommodate his doctrine to its wants.”

That’s some excellent practical pastoral preaching advice from one of the church’s greatest theologians. Who says Calvinists can’t be practical?

By Caleb Kolstad

6 responses to this post.

  1. Great post. Thanks. The balance of the pastor to both teach and be responsible with other duties is so important. This principle of Calvin’s could also be helpful when trying to determine one’s own personal bible study.

  2. Good post Caleb. I often think about what I am preaching and want to be strategic. Not to offer this as a counter but I had a conversation recently that really made me think through this in a different way. I was talking to Rick Holland, my boss, (who d/n like me calling him boss, but that’s another post), and I was having this same conversation about what to teach. He relayed a conversation that he had with John Mac years ago when Rick was the Jr. High pastor at GCC. Rick asked John what he should be teaching to the students, John responded, it doesn’t matter, teach whatever you’re excited about. I think this is good practical reminder of the sufficiency and authority of EVERY part of the Word of God. I’m not going to go start a series in Song of Solomon with my JH students, but it was a good reminder to immerse myself in the truth, be first a learner, then one who applies, and then a preacher.

  3. Allen,

    Good thoughts AC. However just for fun I think you should go tell John Mac that you’re excited about Song of Solomon and see if he changes his counsel.

  4. Yeah, I’ll get right on that….got any job openings? (got a few of his grandkids in the group)

  5. Allen,

    Thanks for the comments. For me, whatever book of the Bible I am preaching through normally becomes my “new favorite.” That is one of the amazing things about God’s Word. The deeper you dig the more you uncover. The more you uncover the more you’re blown away and humbled.

    Mike, I agree this could be applied to our personal devotions as well. Good thought!


  6. Posted by Vonnie E.L.James on April 14, 2010 at 11:08 am

    I sometimes struggle with this problem of what to preach. Yet I am learning that we must really on God and other resources that He provides for an answer. The whole counsel of God is important.

    Anyway,I am looking for a passage to encourage some believers.It’s a rural community, a very new work, mix with mature believers from the “parent” church. Not more than 15 persons. Any suggestions from the Old or New Testament will be welcomed.
    Be Blessed.

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