Friday, May 16, 2008

Preaching Through a Series

Our church is using some resources from Natural Church Development. We recently did a survey which gives us a good indication of relative strengths and weaknesses (or as NCD calls them, minimal and maximum factors). Working through the results of that survey ought to, in principle, enable us to increase the health of our church, and church health is measured through eight categories or what NCD calls the eight quality characteristics. Part of my role in this process is to preach a series based on these characteristics. And I have already begun doing do, though without making a big deal that this is a series. Over the next several weeks I'll work through them all.

Thus far I have prepared three related messages: "God the Giver," "Being Gifts," and "The Gift of Love" (which I preach this Sunday). It was only partway through the process of preparing "Being Gifts" that it occurred to me that this could be the beginning of the NCD series. And as you can see, another theme ties all these messages (so far!) together: that of gifts and giving.

As a pastor, I love when I can carry a theme through several messages or when a group of sermons have something of a symmetry about them. Whether I can do this through all the NCD sermons, I have no idea. It seems unlikely, but I'll probably make some effort at seeing it happen. There will be some topics in the series that simply will not relate to the idea of gifts and giving. Here are the characteristics on which the messages will be based:
  1. Gift-oriented ministry (already done: "Being Gifts")
  2. Loving Relationships (this week: "The Gift of Love")
  3. Holistic Small Groups
  4. Passionate Spirituality
  5. Inspiring Worship
  6. Empowering Leadership
  7. Functional Structures
  8. Need-oriented Evangelism

So these are the themes. And I don't know how I will approach them all yet. A couple of them I may combine (Empowering Leadership and Functional Structures). And I might, I just might, see if if I can use the gift theme throughout. But I don't want it to be forced. Already I have a couple of ideas for the sermon on holistic small groups, and neither have to do with the gift theme. So there you go. One is "Size Matters." Just a way of pointing out the importance of having a small group and how the number of people we've gathered with affects our ability to be ourselves, be open to prayer, etc. I'm thinking of following up this week's message on loving relationships with this one. Though that title idea may be too tongue-in-cheek. Another possible title is "We Are Not Alone."

I'm nearly done my sermon for this Sunday. I probably could have finished it yesterday, but some circumstances got in the way. I'll be on daddy duty tonight while my wife is out for the evening so it has to be finished either before I bring my daughter home or after she goes to bed. Once that sermon is done, I'll post it here, especially since I've already posted my two previous and related sermons here. Of course, doing this is likely making it possible for someone else to steal my sermons and pass them off as their own. I suppose, however, if they do so it ultimately hurts them and their congregations more than me.

Hey pastors out there--do you typically preach in a series or do you preach stand alone sermons? Do you have a preference? And do you take particular care in titling your messages or in making all your points alliterative? Maybe in doing those last couple of things I am a little crazy.

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