We often get the question, “How does Sojourn determine what to preach and when?” It’s a great question, so we thought it might be helpful to share.
Each summer, a few pastors from throughout the Sojourn family of churches come together to plan our preaching calendar for the following church year (Advent to the following Advent). We start by compiling a list of ideas, and by the end of the day, we pencil in our potential preaching calendar. We then take a month to think and pray through the proposed calendar before reconvening to offer suggestions and make changes. Through this process, God has been gracious to grant a great deal of unity and cohesion.
Now, when we first come together to compile our initial list of ideas, we follow a basic framework, with Acts 20:27 as a guiding verse: I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. So what does it mean to preach the “whole counsel of God”? We have developed what we believe is a holistic grid for reading and applying the Bible. From within these categories, we identify at least one sermon series annually.
- Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John look directly at the life and ministry of Jesus. As followers of Jesus, we believe it is important to take time each year to learn from His life.
- Old Testament — The Old Testament is the portion of the Bible written before Jesus. Many Christians avoid the Old Testament because it can appear obscure and confusing, but our hope is to annually show how the Old Testament is accessible, applicable, and all about Jesus.
- New Testament Letters — After the Gospels, 23 letters make up the rest of the New Testament. They were written about the explosive mission of Christ advanced through His Church. In preaching through New Testament letters, our goal is to grow in our understanding and application of how to live in light of Christ's life, death, resurrection, and ascension.
- Thematic — Occasionally, we take a key theological theme and trace it throughout the Bible. For example, we preached through a series this past year titled Christ of the Covenants. Put simply, we preach thematic series in order to grow in our ability to understand and apply all that the Bible has to say on a particular theme.
- Christian Living / Vision — During our annual Life Together series, we allow the Bible to define and redefine our hope for the future. Similarly, we will occasionally organize a sermon series around a particular topic we believe needs to be addressed from Scripture (e.g., dating, work, parenting, prayer, gossip, anxiety, etc.).
Benefits of this Approach
We see at least four primary benefits to following this “whole counsel” grid in developing our preaching calendar:
- Seeing the Bible as One Story — As we draw from different parts of the Bible, we learn to read the entire Bible as one story. We are increasingly able to see the gospel, the central storyline of the Bible, woven through Job, John, James, and so on.
- Learning To Read The Bible — Because there is more than one way to read the Bible (systematically, thematically, topically, etc.), there needs to be more than one kind of sermon. We need sermons and sermon series that can adapt accordingly.
- Mirroring the Diversity of Scripture — Some of the Bible is lofty theology, some is historical narrative, and some is highly practical. But it's all scripture, and it’s all important. In pursuing a diverse preaching calendar, we seek to honor the diversity of Scripture.
- Recognizing our Urban Context — We desire to see our members putting down roots and giving their lives for the sake of the gospel in Houston. However, as a young church in the city, we recognize that many of our members may only be with us for a few years. Thus, we want a preaching calendar that equips both our long-term members and our more transient members.
Does this mean we will never preach line by line through a longer book of the bible? Not at all.
Will this grid be used every year? We like this grid, but our ultimate aim is to lead in submission to the Spirit of God. If we believe the Spirit is leading us to break from this structure, we will not hesitate to do so.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).
In learning to read and apply the Bible comprehensively, our hope is that Sojourn will be equipped for the work of ministry and the mission of Christ in the world.