How to Teach The Entire Bible: A Long-Range Approach To Sermon Planning and Development

During my 20-plus years in full-time ministry, I’ve seen a wide variety of teaching methods employed on Sunday mornings. While I have never served as a full-time teaching pastor, my role typically involves a lot of planning and development of support materials and coordinated teaching curriculum.

In this blog post, I want to provide you with an approach to teaching the Bible that will provide a deep, theologically rich teaching experience for your congregation.

For the past 15 years, most of my series development has centered on an expository teaching approach to the Bible. Using this method, we teach through books of the Bible, with the text driving the development of the sermon. It is, in my opinion, the best method of teaching the Bible.

Different Approaches to Expository Preaching

Under the umbrella of expository teaching, there are several approaches. These include:

  • Verse-by-Verse. This is most common definition of expository preaching and the most thorough. Verse-by-verse teaching can cover a small passage of text (a paragraph, for example) or even become more granular and cover a single verse each week. It’s not uncommon for pastors who teach verse-by-verse to spend years in a single book of the Bible. John MacArthur, for example, taught from the gospel of Luke for 10 years!
  • Chapter-by-Chapter. Another common approach to expository preaching is chapter-by-chapter. This is a simple approach that essentially let’s the chapter divides within a book of the Bible guide your series development and pace. It is a balance between in-depth teaching and still teaching through entire books at a steady pace.
  • Survey Method. Using a survey method, the text still drives the development of your message, but you fly over books at the 20,000 foot level. You capture the broad themes and doctrinal teachings without wading into the intimate details.
  • Textual-Topical. This is a blend of a topical sermon and an expository sermon. Within this category of sermon development, a pastor may allow the text to provide structure and outline, yet still teach a topical series. At First Family, we teach textual-topical series from time-to-time while working our way through a book of the Bible. These mini-series usually range from 3–6 sermons and are rooted in a single passage of Scripture.

Recommended Approach To Teaching The Entire Bible

With these general definitions to guide us, which method is most appropriate for the teaching of the Bible to a congregation? Clearly, this is my opinion, but I believe it is essential to teach the entire scope and sequence of the Scriptures to your congregation while still providing them with the depth necessary to form a solid theological foundation and full understanding the history and context of the Bible. This method will accomplish these objectives.

1. Survey the Entire Bible in One Year

If I was starting as a new pastor for an existing church or planting a church, my first priority would be to ground my church in the big picture of the Word of God. Unfortunately, few Christians today have read the Bible from beginning to end, and, as a result, fail to grasp the big picture. To accomplish this, I would teach through the Bible using a survey method in one year. For pastors who need help developing a series like this, I would recommend The Story, published by Zondervan. First Family taught through The Story in 2011–12, and it provides an excellent vehicle to teach the entire context of Scripture to your church. It provides coordinating curriculum for small groups (another big win) and a paraphrase of the Bible that reads like a book.

2. Teach Every Book of the Bible in Five Years

After teaching through a survey of the entire Bible, I recommend moving to a chapter-by-chapter approach for series development. Using this method, you can cover in greater detail each book of the Bible, yet still teach through the entire Bible. With a chapter-by-chapter approach, you can teach through the Bible in five years. Some weeks you will need to cover more than one chapter, but these often combine well to provide a single theme or story. For example, I would teach through Genesis in 26 weeks, recognizing that Genesis has 52 chapters. Some weeks I can cover 2–3 chapters at a time, while other weeks, especially during the first 11 chapters, I will cover individual chapters. To keep interest high during a five-year survey, alternate between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

3. Dig Deep Into the “Mountain Peak” Books of Scripture

After completing a five-year study of the entire Bible, I then recommend returning to the “mountain peak” books that are rich in doctrine and theological understanding. These include:

  • Genesis
  • Daniel
  • Matthew
  • Acts
  • Romans
  • Hebrews
  • Revelation

Teaching through each of these books will provide a rich tapestry of doctrinal, historical, and prophetic teaching. At this point, I would teach verse-by-verse and seek to “suck the morrow” out of the text, to paraphrase Thoreau.

How do you prefer to teach the Scripture? What are the objectives that guide your sermon series planning? Have you identified these objectives and communicated them to your congregation?

This is Day 7 of my 30 Day Blogging Flush. The purpose of this series is to perform a “writing flush” on this blog, and write 30 posts in 30 days in an effort to break through writer’s block.

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