TracyLauersenDave from my indoor soccer team asked me after a game one day, ‘How do you come up with new ideas to preach about each week?’

Dave wasn’t a churchgoer, or even a Christian, so it was an interesting question for him to ask! But he was right; left to my own creativity and ability to generate ideas I’d soon be scraping the bottom of the barrel. Fortunately, I don’t need to come up with my own ideas but rather I seek to unpack God’s ideas through systematic expository preaching, working through bible books section by section.

There are, of course, different types of sermons: doctrinal, ethical, topical, expository. And there is a place for each. However, I firmly believe that our staple diet should be expository preaching. Here’s 5 reasons why:

1. It respects both the divine and human authorship of the bible. It treats books as God has given them to us and explores the human author’s individual style, emphases, experience, and organisation.

2. It respects the context. Each passage is set within the context of the whole book. This helps to avoid distorting smaller sections by taking them out of context.

3. It makes for more balanced preaching. It gives the same ‘weight’ to things that God has given to things in the bible and helps to keep us off our hobby horses.

4. It forces us to deal with tough passages. Since we are not picking and choosing passages, we will have to face difficult things that arise in the book and not avoid them. It is amazing how often a pre-planned sermon series brings tough passages to bear on recent events!

5. It teaches people to read the bible for themselves. Our preaching should not just use the bible but also show people how to use the bible for themselves. By working through texts in their contexts, book by book, you give people a framework and methodology for reading the bible for themselves.

Assuming then that systematic expository preaching is our ‘staple diet’, how do we plan the preaching program? I like to set aside a retreat day to pray and think through this. As I pray I consider the pastoral situation of the congregation and what it would be helpful for them to study. I also seek to preach ‘the whole counsel of God’, ensuring that we are covering different genres and parts of Scripture over time.

Each year I try and preach at least one series from a Gospel, one series from another New Testament Book and one series from the Old Testament. I also include one topical or doctrinal series. This is my foundational starting point. Then building on this one-year program I also look ahead and think what the balance will be like over a period of say three years. See the table below for an example.


Year 1

Year 2

Year 3


Matthew 5-7

Luke 1-2, 18-24


NT Book


2 Timothy

1 Peter Philippians

OT Book

Job, Nehemiah

Exodus 1-20

Exodus 21-40


Christian Spirituality



 This enables you to start thinking about questions like whether you are covering the range of Old Testament literature (law, narrative, wisdom, prophecy, poetry). I recently checked my preaching over the last nine years using the helpful tool developed by Adam Lowe at St Bart’s Toowoomba (www.stbarts.com.au/resourcetraining-centre/preaching-calendar-planning). I was encouraged that I had maintained my intended balance over time and had covered a range of biblical genres. It also helped me to identify gaps and to put them into this year’s preaching program!

Decisions will also need to be made about how long each series will be. It will need to fit the needs of the congregation and the season. For our church, which has lots of families, we need to work with school terms in mind. A series is usually between 4 and 12 weeks long. For shorter books, it is possible to cover the whole book by breaking it into sections. For longer books you will probably have to select about 10 representative passages or else cover the book in stages over a few years. When selecting passages it is helpful that they be:

  • Representative – characteristic and distinctive of the book
  • Balanced – showing the whole range of what the book contains
  • Comprehensive – people will feel they really know what the book is all about
  • Surprising as well as familiar – taking people to places they may never have been before Preaching is a great privilege and responsibility. If a person were to attend your church and sit under your teaching for 10 years, how would their understanding of the bible grow? Would they know the range of the Scriptures and would they be spiritually fed and nourished?

Tim Johnson is the Senior Minister at St John’s Diamond Creek and Archdeacon of the Yarra. He is the international facilitator for Langham Preaching in PNG.