Variety In Preaching

Variety in Preaching

So, if you’ve been reading this blog regularly, we’ve just completed a series on the various kinds of sermons that can be preached.  Here’s a link to the first in the series.  Today we turn to a related question: “What kinds of sermons do I schedule over a period of time?”  If you like a preview of what I’m going to say, it’s this: I believe that in today’s world having a variety in preaching subjects is usually the best choice to make.

Consistency vs. Variety

charles swindoll

charles swindoll

Picture of John MacArthur

John MacArthur

My generation in the United States boasts some excellent Bible expositors who made their mark by preaching through books of the Bible.  If you are familiar with the Church in the United States, you will likely recognize these names:  Charles Swindoll, John MacArthur, James Boice, and D. Martin Lloyd-Jones. These preachers are well-known for spending months, maybe even years, working through a book of the Bible.  They would begin at chapter 1:1, and then move forward each week, adding to an understanding of every verse.  Tim Keller, who I introduced in a previous post, says about this practice in his book, Preaching, that they leave no stone unturned.

That consistency made it possible for them to easily publish books that benefitted many people beyond the original original audience.  I own many of them, and they are indeed helpful.  But is this the best approach in today’s world?  As I said in the opening paragraph, I believe that variety in preaching is what is needed today.  Here’s why:

Reasons for Variety in Preaching

There are several reasons for this assertion.

People on the Move

The biggest reason for this position is that our audience changes.  I am speaking here primarily of the audience in the US, but this is also likely true where you live.  According to the statistics gathered in 2017, the average American moves 11.4 times in his lifetime.  The percentage of Americans who move in a given year reached 20% one year.

There are many implications for preaching/teaching in this environment.  The assumption of many people who preach long series on a book is that their audience would remain consistent, and would be faithful in attendance. That assumption just isn’t true anymore.   So if you spend 9 months preaching through, let’s say, Philippians, there will be a pretty good number of people who will have moved away and move in during the series, and they won’t get it all.

People Engaged Elsewhere

Also, church attendance isn’t what it used to be.  This is, by the way, a challenge for educating of children as well.  When I grew up in a church, the curriculum in Sunday School followed a pattern for good grounding in the Word, in Church History, and in Church Doctrine.

In the church I served before retiring, we experienced a 50% attendance rate overall in Sunday School, or, in other words, the average child attended only 50% of the time.

One study from a decade ago showed that the most faithful church attenders in American will miss 12 times during this coming year.  These are the most faithful attenders, and so, others will miss even more.   And that statistic is from a decade ago.  I believe that now between 30 to 40% will miss on a given Sunday.  What will that do to our preaching series?

Conditioned by the Media

A third reason to use variety in our planned preaching is that we have been conditioned by the media to expect change and variety.  Therefore, our audience will be more likely to “tune in” to our messages if they provide some variety.

So How Do I Do Variety In Preaching?

This is the reason I’ve spent some time exploring in previous posts the variety of messages that you can preach effectively.  Mix them up in your schedule, according to the culture of your audience, and according to the church calendar.

Use shorter series of messages.  I have been focusing on 4 to 6 week series for some time now.

Preach the cycle of the Church Year as part of your series, including advent and lent as prominent.  These are times that most people in your congregation enjoy and celebrate.

Make sure you include some “felt-need” messages, like family, or forgiveness, or living the life of Jesus in a complex world.   Here’s a link to someone who talks about variety in preaching, including the story sermon.

Keep a record of your sermons, so you can know when a change in style would be good.

Here’s a video of Mike Holms, reflecting on how to create series of messages that will engage your people.


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