Topical sermons serve an important, but not exclusive role in every preacher’s ministry. For the sake of clarity, when I refer to expository preaching I am talking about choosing a passage of Scripture (generally a full paragraph) and allowing the point of the passage to become to point of the sermon. In topical preaching, however, I am referring to the process of choosing a specific theme/topic and then developing a sermon to show how the Bible deals with that specific subject.
Sometimes, I find that these two types of preaching can often be used in conjunction with one another. For instance, if I am preaching a series of messages on the attributes of God, I might choose a specific passage of Scripture that deals with each of the attributes, then preach the individual messages in an expositional style. But generally, I find that topical messages are best developed using several passages, in what we might refer to as a Biblical theology approach.
An example would be, if I wanted to preach about the family, I would trace that theme throughout the Bible, showing how the theme of the family is developed throughout the canon. Notice that I am not choosing two or three things that I would like to say about the family and then trying to find texts to demonstrate them. Nor am I using a passage that generally speaks of the family and then developing my own points. The Scripture must always dictate the content of the sermon, even in a topical message. Failure at this point will mean the complete breakdown of the sermon -- it will become merely an essay about what the preacher thinks about a subject, rather than what God has to say about the matter.
When planning my preaching calendar, I like to sit down with my staff, deacons and a few other leaders of the church to discuss what topics or issues we may need to address in the upcoming months or year. As the needs of the congregation begin to emerge, I start to search for Biblical topics that address these issues and study how they are developed. Once I have the basic outline of how the theme is developed I can start to put together the topical sermons that will make up the series. Over the course of the year, I will preach several topical series around the holidays and in between expositional series. I find that a topical series preached right after a lengthy exposition of a book of the Bible is a great way to break up monotony and increases the effectiveness of the topical sermons.
Dr. Joe Buchanan has been preaching for over twenty years. He currently, serves as the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Metropolis, IL and as Assistant Professor in the School of Religion at Liberty University.
Keywords: Topical Sermons, Sermon Topics, Sermon Helps
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