Preaching can become arduous. There are times when, with all the varied responsibilities of weekday parish duties, Sunday arrives suddenly and it is time once again to deliver a message.
One of the ways I have discovered (through more than four decades of preaching) to alleviate some of the pressure is to periodically deliver a series of sermons on a single theme.
There are several reasons why I feel this method of preaching has tremendous value. In the first place, planning a series of four or five sermons over the coming weeks means you don’t have to be concerned with finding a text or a subject for next Sunday’s message.
Second, sermons build. Running across an apt illustration that doesn’t fit next Sunday’s message might be apropos for the third week hence if you are preparing a series.
Third, building upon a single theme for several weeks feeds the faith of the congregation. Week after week the preacher can dwell on a specific aspect of the Christian life, helping make stick what might not be so effective in the lives of his people if he only occasionally mentions it. As Isaiah wrote: “For precept must be upon precept … line upon line … here a little and there a little” (Isa. 28:10).
As this is written, I am about to start a four-part series of a different kind. For the first time in my life I am going to preach four successive messages on the same verse, John 3:16. In the first I will dwell on “God, (who) so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him might not perish.”
In the second sermon I will concentrate on the world that God created, and into which sin entered, making it vital that His Son come into that world to redeem it.
The third message will of course deal with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who although He was God assumed the life of a mere mortal that He might die for the world’s salvation (Phil. 2:6-8).
The “whosoever” aspect of John 3:16 will be the focus of the final message. This is a universal invitation to all people of all kinds.
Several different times I have preached, as just this past spring, a series of six or seven messages leading up to Easter on the subject, “People Who Met Jesus.” You can select anyone you wish, from Nicodemus to Zaccheus.
In that connection, my method of preparing a message may not suit you, but I usually take a single sheet of 8 1/2 x 11 white bond paper and fold it into a booklet 5 1/2 8 1/2. Then I write the sermon title and date on the top of one side. I list each of the sermons in the series on such a folder or booklet.
I then periodically insert any poem, newspaper clipping, quotation or other help I find to make the sermon clearer or more interesting.
Sermon illustrations abound. They come upon us, however, usually without warning. They are like ideas which come to writers. One author told me, “If I pressure my mind to produce a new thought, nothing happens. But if, like a dog that stops chasing his own tail and just lets it follow him around, I go about my usual routine, the ideas come.” Sermon series help us to be “on the alert” for appropriate illustrations.
So, I’m for the sermon series, used judiciously several times during the year. Here are some I’ve used:
“The Master.” Sermon titles included: “The Master of Nature” (Mark 4:23-41), “The Master of Men” (John 12), “The Master of Prayer” (Matt. 26:36-46), “The Master of Earthly Empires” (Phil. 2), and “The Master of Eternal Life” (John 11:25, 26). The last sermon was preached on Easter Sunday in connection with I Corinthians 15.
“Great Chapters of the Bible.” In some ways this is a challenging discipline. It demands a consideration of what you believe are the truly great chapters of the Scriptures. Certainly Genesis 1, John 1, Romans 8, and I Corinthians 13 and 15 would have to be considered, along with others.
“The Path.” Mark 14:32-40 formed the background for “The Path of Disappointment.” Luke 19:41 was the text for “The Path of Sorrow.” Luke 4:1-13 served as the basis for “The Path of Temptation.”
Another series of three — called “Contrasts in Character” — compared Peter and Judas, Lydia and King Agrippa, and Demas and Paul.
Sermons in a series called “Man’s Need” were entitled “The Need of Hearing God’s Word” (Rom. 10:17), “Believing” (Acts 16:30, 31), “Repenting” (Acts 17:30), “Confessing One’s Faith” (Rom. 10:9, 10), and “Being Baptized” (Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16).
During several summers I have prepared a series on the Psalms, a book particularly appealing and refreshing in the warm weather.
Create your own series. Preach on a character who moves through several books of the Bible: Moses, David, John the Beloved Disciple. Preach on the “unknowns and unnamed” in the Scriptures (the woman at the well, the boy who gave his lunch to Jesus to feed the five thousand, the little Israelite maiden who helped Naaman lose his leprosy). Use your imagination. The field is wide.
Keep looking for effective illustrations to bring abstract ideas down to the people in the pew. And may all your messages glorify God, build the faith of your people, and strengthen Christ’s church!

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