Today at our Union Learning Community, we talked about how we would prepare to preach a series on the book of Revelation. Here’s a list of things the group agreed we would consider as we planned the series. I thought the list was worth sharing as it is relevant to planning any book series. Thanks to the group as this was a team effort!
- How much time are we allocating to this?
Sometimes we might have no choice. For example, last year, Steve Brady covered the book at the Keswick convention, He had no choice in the matter, he was limited to 5 talks.
Other times we may be able to spend a longer or shorter time on the book. This might take into account, the level of Biblical literacy in the congregation and how much background detail we want to go into. We also need to be aware that at different times and with different books, congregations have different levels of capacity to stick with a particular theme or genre. Be aware as well that as preachers we have different levels of capacity at different times to stick with a focus.
- How are we going to divide this up?
Obviously, there will be natural passage breaks but:
– Based on time, genre and approach we may choose to cover shorter or longer sections
– You may choose to pick up on themes and follow them through a book rather than doing a straight chapter by chapter approach
- What is the purpose of the teaching series and what will be the primary application?
I was really pleased that the group came up with this because we might be tempted to say that you just preach the book and see what comes out. However, expository preaching does not preclude thinking about aims and application up front.
– There will be times when you choose to cover a specific book because you will believe that it is particular relevant to your context
– The book itself will have an overall purpose and specific applicatory themes.
The important thing here is that we do not want to read our purpose/hobby horses into a book (eisegesis) rather it should arise from the book. This means that we need to give time up front to study through the book well in advance of preaching. For example, I am starting to think about 2 Corinthians now before we preach on it in late 2018. Knowing how a book brings out its intended purpose and specific application over a series of chapters also removes pressure from individual preachers from thinking they have got to put the weight of application all onto one chapter.
- What is your stance on hot topics within the book?
So, in Revelation, you might want to think about how you approach Millennialism whilst a look at Romans or Galatians may raise questions about your approach to Justification and the New Perspective on Paul, meanwhile, diving into 1 Corinthians or the Acts of the Apostles will require you to take a position on the role of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts.
Again, the important thing here is to find your stance by a careful exegesis of the text. As I mentioned when we looked at Revelation, too often people allow their view on the first few verses of Revelation 20 to shape their approach to the rest of the book (and a significant proportion of the rest of Scripture) instead of allowing their study of the whole book to help them to interpret chapter 20.
Some people think they can avoid taking a stance but:
– The supposedly neutral stance usually ends up being a stance in itself.
– Careful exegesis means you can’t really avid reaching at least tentative conclusions on some matters.
You may still want to think about when you start a series. Here are some things to consider
– Seasons – there will be times of the year and lifecycle of a church that mean everyone will be better placed to engage with a part of the Bible
– Things going on in the life of the church. There’s no right or wrong answer here but there may be times when it is best to hold off whilst a difficult issue is being dealt with because some may think you are intentionally preaching at them. At other times you will realise that the series is exactly right for the situation – or that you need to preach from somewhere else.
– Are you as a preaching team ready to preach it?
I am glad that I waited a few years before getting us to dive into Revelation. I think we as a team were better prepared to preach it and t seemed to come at just the right time for the church family.
What would you add to this list?