Ensure Your Pulpit is the Propulsion of the Church

One of the most difficult tasks of a pastor is not in taking the pulpit, but in planning to take the pulpit. | by Doug Murren

Today’s listeners are very accomplished. They are accustomed to being catered to when it comes to their communications. And they have thousands of choices as to how and with whom they will communicate.

That is why we can never slack, but must work hard at our sermons. I have always viewed preparing to preach as a service and act of worship. The preparation itself gives me great joy. There is no greater privilege on earth than being called upon to bring the teaching of the scriptures to the convinced and to those yet to be joined with Christ.

To start, I have found that if you want to “keep them coming back,” you have to keep your messages interesting. I make up a list of the kinds of messages I want to cycle through in a year of sermons. Mixing up the type, style and content of messages keeps the pulpit interesting. Add to that, some level of skill at storytelling is essential for today’s listeners.

As you discern the mix and cycles of sermons your group needs, you can plan how you will present them over a year. Tracking what kinds of messages you present can help you make certain you are developing well-equipped people in their faith.

Below are some types of sermons from my list. These are the kinds of sermons I typically preach in a balanced cycle. Maintaining this list works especially well as you grow. Having a preaching calendar assisted one church I pastored to grow to eleven weekly services over fifteen years. It helped us in leadership handle what the people needed to hear. It also meant I didn’t have to be the only speaker. Because we paid close attention to the “kinds” of sermons we presented, we were able to be much more effective in our choice of speakers from our team.

Here’s a sample list for your contemplation from the way I’ve used this pattern:

  • Healing messages - We key on emotional, physical, relational and spiritual healing in these series. We don’t cover this ground every week but we deliberately cover it at least three weeks per quarter on this cycle.
  • Expositional messages - Bible knowledge is important and there are cycles where we simply teach the Bible and how to read in context, how to pay attention to the kinds of literature the Bible deployed in getting the message out.
  • Giving and Serving - No church can survive with stingy people or people who only want to be served. Quarterly, plan at least one message or two on giving and serving. You can do volunteer recruitment in these services and teach stewardship in a biblical way.
  • Exhortation/Prophetic Messages – These are messages that speak to a call to obedience and holiness. Speak to issues that are present but are off-line biblically in the culture, in the lives of people, and in the church.
  • Evangelistic Messages – We explain the gospel every week and give an invitation to Christ. I have also encouraged probably thousands of churches to baptize weekly. At least once a quarter, present one or two services that are pure evangelism.
  • Vision Casting Messages - Every congregation has a unique call and approach in their city. To keep a church on track, a message once a quarter on the mission and vision of the church is essential. People get tired of this angle if you try to bring it too often, like doing it weekly, but taking the time at least four times a year to present your place and mission as a church is essential. Otherwise, you will become simply redundant.
  • Doctrinal Messages - Doctrine is important, though maybe not always the first choice of many preachers. Correct belief is essential to have a healthy church, so work it in.
  • Discipling Messages - Every congregation needs review when it comes to the lifestyle of being a Christian. Messages on daily prayer, Bible study and issues like Christian marriage and parenting are essential parts of developing strong churches. And sometimes you have to double back and help those needing to make the step to water baptism and some of the basics of the faith.

You could add some additional themes, or maybe broaden the selection a bit more. But these are basic patterns you could follow through a year. I have long encouraged church leaders to get out the calendar and plan far in advance the kinds of messages and development they are presenting to their congregations.

Most speakers and leaders have a comfort zone or favorite terrain that can become a rut. Without conscious consideration, we tend to locate ourselves in our comfort zone and with that, we can over-develop our congregations in a limited range of experience spiritually and biblically.

To plan your preaching calendar, have your church speaking and worship teams gather at least twice a year. Together, pull out the calendar and develop a yearly plan for your services and sermons. Plan your topics, worship approach, media, music, all of it.

One of the side benefits of coming together is to learn from each other what the church actually heard. You will likely find that certain team members are better at presenting some issues than the pastor is. And, as you discuss, you can be much more strategic about guests you invite to serve in speaking.

If you’ll take the time to plan a full year for your sermons with an entire team behind you, if you’ll decide who will speak virtually one and two years ahead, it makes everything a whole lot more fun. And, your worship services will become something no one wants to miss.

I am a keen observer of churches and leaders. And I know for certain that if you don’t take the time to get strategic with the kinds of messages and speaking targets, you will key on maybe two or three at most. As a result, your church will be bored and underdeveloped in areas. And, you will have to work far too hard every week to get people to come back.

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