How to Preach Through a Book of the Bible

Maybe you’ve wanted to preach through a book of the Bible, but you have questions.  Questions like, “How long should it be?” or  “How can I make each message seem fresh if I’m sticking to the same Bible book for weeks or months?”

Ministry Pass has a sermon series for every book of the Bible!  Even better, each book of the Bible has different graphics packages: so that they align with what your people are used to seeing, whether your church is more contemporary or traditional in style.  So check them out- it’s a great starting point!  There are illustrations.  Some books, we have an outline for every single passage in the book.  For longer Bible books, we condense them into 10-12 weeks, and you can expand the series based on your schedule.  In the fall of 2021, we’ll also be launching a one-year sermon series through the book of Acts!

If you’re wanting to develop your own series, here’s how to break it down:

Choose a the book of the Bible to preach through

For your first series, choose something short and easier to understand and preach through, like Galatians, Esther, or 1 and 2 Thessalonians.  Don’t start with a two-year journey through one of the gospels or a hard-to-understand book from the Old Testament.  Starting small will help you gain confidence and do this well.

As you’re making your selection, choose a book with a storyline and overall message that your congregation needs to hear.  Keep in mind that when you’re preaching through a book, you’ll have to dive into things that you might normally skip- that’s part of what’s so rewarding about preaching through a book of the Bible!

Identify the overall theme

Once you’ve chosen your book, or even while you’re in the process of choosing it, make sure you identify the main idea of the text.  There are several steps you can take in order to do this, including:

  • study the book of the Bible you’re preaching from
  • read through the book multiple times
  • pray as you’re reading and studying
  • look up this book in commentaries
  • Create an outline

Throughout all of those steps, you’re trying to figure out, “What’s the big idea of this book?” Some books make this easy- like in the book of John, he says, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” He basically gives his thesis statement.  Whatever book of the Bible you decide to preach through, find that overall theme, then translate that to the ears of your congregation.  

Identify the Context

When you’re preaching through a book of the Bible, it helps to set the stage correctly by introducing the context.  Here are some questions to ask while doing that:

  • What was the setting? 
  •  What was happening in history at that time?   

A great resource for this is The Complete Guide to the Bible, which gives you answers to questions like:

  • Who’s the author? 
  • What’s the main or most popular verse in the book?  
  • What’s the historical setting of this book?

Knowing the context and background is very helpful, especially as you’re introducing the book you’re preaching from- those details help bring color and life to the passages you’ll be covering.  

As you’re identifying the context, remember that every book of the Bible tells a story, which is often wrapped up in the context.  For example, Paul’s letters are telling the story of a group of people who are going through a particular challenge, and he’s addressing that challenge.  So, every single book of the Bible tells a story- you just have to figure out what that story is and then communicate it!

If you’re struggling to find the story or to communicate it well, Ministry Pass is currently creating Bible book summaries for each book of the Bible.  At the end, there’s an example illustration to help people understand the message of the book.  There’s a 1-2 paragraph summary of the book, written so that pastors can use it to explain to their church what the book is about.  If you want to create your own summary (and you should!)  think, “If I boil the book down into one sentence or paragraph, how would I do it?”  

Once you have the overall theme and the context dialed in, think through your branding.  For example, are you going to call your series, “The Book of James” or “Faith in Action?”   You can use your main theme to dictate what the series is called, to make it easier to capture people’s interest.  

Divide the Book into Sermons

Whether you choose to go through every passage, or boil the book down into ten or six weeks, begin working through how you’re going to divide the book into sermons.  As you do, keep these principles in mind: 

  • Every message could connect to the others, but they should also be able to stand alone.  That’s because people will miss weeks or just plain forget what you talked about in previous weeks.  
  • Don’t end the sermon in the middle of a story or at an important point.  Instead, plan out the passages you’ll preach from so that it’s less confusing for your hearers. For example, if you’re preaching through a longer story like the story of Joseph, divide it up in episodes of his life so that you’re able to pick back up where you left off while still creating a stand-alone sermon.
  • Give context for every sermon.  Remember, people forget or they’re not there every week.  So when you get up to preach, say, “Hey, last week we talked about this story, and we’re continuing with what happened afterwards.”  Give them the context, and really work to summarize.  When Wade preaches, he likes to open with his illustration, and then give the context early as a reminder.  Make sure you summarize this well.  Because, if you don’t, you could get up there and talk for five minutes before the sermon even starts!   

What to Include in Every Sermon:

As we just mentioned, you’re going to want to cover the background and the overall story in each sermon.  Be succinct in how you explain the context, especially if you’re doing it every single week, and continually tie it back to the theme of the book.  As you’re preparing your sermon, make sure you’re asking yourself, “What’s this passage about, and how does it tie into that overall theme?”  Sometimes, you’ll see how the passage you’re preaching is an important part of driving home the theme of the book.  

Here’s what you want to make sure you explain:

  • The story or overall theme
  • The actual meaning of the passage
  • Application- what can we take away from this?  What is the author telling us to do with this message?

When you’re preaching through a book of the Bible, it’s easy to just give information- don’t settle for that!  Make sure you give an application, as well as digging for the different angles that teach important principles.  Don’t settle for surface-level similarities and preaching the same thing every week- the Word of God is so much richer and fuller than that! 

Finally, as support to your sermon, provide guidance and opportunities for your church to participate and interact with the book that you’re studying.  Have people read through this book a few times on their own.  Recommend that they use The Bible Project videos, reading plans on Youversion, or listening plans on Dwell to help them go deeper. 

Final Thoughts- Preaching Through a Book of the Bible is Freeing

A lot of people, when they think about preaching through a book of the Bible, say, “Oh, that sounds too constricting.”  We’ve found it to be just the opposite- it’s liberating!  You get to study and preach through how the Holy Spirit guided the authors along, which is an amazing experience.  Also, knowing what you’re going to preach every week and just working through it can be very freeing, as well.  Finally, it helps people understand how important Scripture is, and shows them by example how to work through it in a systematic manner.

If you’re not sure you want to do this on your own, Ministry Pass would love to help! You’ll find a series for every book of the Bible that’s designed to fit your church’s style, a year-long journey through the Book of Acts coming out in the fall of 2021, as well as The Gospel Story, a sermon series/calendar that’s actually a chronological adventure through the Bible in a year!

If you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you!  Let us know what book of the Bible you’re planning to take your church through this year by leaving us a comment on Youtube or using the hashtag #hellochurchpod on any social media platform.

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