Why Preach Overview Sermons of Bible Books

Preachers want their people to love the Word of God. They also want to grow as preachers and keep their preaching calendar fresh. Preaching a whole book of the Bible in one sermon is one way to accomplish all three of these objectives and might be worth adding to your preaching repertoire. Here are a few reasons:

  1. Preaching book-overview sermons encourages Bible engagement in the congregation.

All preachers should want their preaching to engender responses like, “I can read this for myself!” The more exposure your people have to different parts of Scripture, the better. Working in a book-overview sermon allows you to mix in other parts of Scripture that you wouldn’t normally cover.

  1. Preaching book-overview sermons adds more variety in the preaching schedule.

If you have ever gotten bogged down by preaching consecutively through entire books, you might consider taking a break from your current series and preaching an overview of another book as a way to mix things up.

  1. Preaching book-overview sermons helps show different contours of the book that are sometimes lost in a normal exposition.

Approaching the Bible with a wider lens reveals a book’s big ideas, turning points, and other vital details to the book’s message. More atomistic preaching risks losing the forest for the trees—or even the leaves on the trees. Teaching the Bible atomistically can lead our people to read the Bible atomistically. Zooming out to see the whole book reminds listeners that God moved authors to write whole books with coherent messages, not loosely arranged collections of verses.

  1. Preaching book-overview sermons grows the preacher.

Pastor Paul Alexander commented, “I myself learn so much as a preacher from preparing overview sermons. I learn both content of the book, and a different method of study, and my learning in those ways helps my congregation learn in those ways too.”[1]

  1. Preaching book-overview sermons helps you see how the book testifies to Christ in its macro themes and structure.

All of Scripture testifies to Christ. Focus on entire books allows preachers to more easily explain how higher-level ideas in books point us to Christ. The book of Judges’ steady drumbeat of “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25) points to Christ, the Promised King from the tribe of Judah. Joseph’s words near the end of Genesis, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20), summarize not only a major theme of the book but a major theme of the Bible—one ultimately fulfilled when sinful man’s crucifixion of the Christ opens the door for salvation.

Responding to Potential Pushback

Preaching book-overview messages isn’t for the faint of heart, as two points of pushback testify to. Careful thought should help a preacher overcome pushback.

Pushback #1: But . . . you won’t cover everything a book has to offer in one sermon!

Isn’t that the case with every sermon text anyway? Scripture has an unlimited depth of riches no matter what size text you choose to preach. Occasionally sprinkling in book-overview sermons will help make more parts of the Bible accessible for our people so they can discover its riches for themselves.

Pushback #2: But . . . it takes so much time!

Yes, it takes time and is hard work. Consider Pastor Paul Alexander’s recommendation:

“The main downside is that if you’ve never done it before, you can make it harder work than it is (both to prepare for it and for your congregation to listen to it!) by choosing a long book rather than a short one. So start small and work your way up to the bigger books if you’re inexperienced. Start with an short NT epistle like Philemon or Jude, or 3 John, then a book like Philippians, then try a short OT prophet like Obadiah, or Haggai, then graduate to Ruth, etc. . . . Major prophets, Gospels, and the Psalms should be among the last overviews preachers do.”[2]

Example Sermons

If you’ve never heard an overview sermon, here are a few examples from pastors Paul Alexander of Grace Covenant Church in Elgin, Illinois, and Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC:

[1] Quote taken from a personal email with Alexander on May 30, 2018.
[2] Ibid.


Related Resources:

“The pulpit now is no longer a burden, but a blessing” | Costa Rica Testimonial

Training Costa Rican Pastors in Expository Preaching
We love telling stories of God’s work around the world. We love it more when you can hear the pastors we train tell their own stories of transformation from God’s Word.

Costa Rican Pastor William recently had this to share with our team:*

Sadly, I was at a moment in ministry where my sermons were dry and irrelevant. I even evaluated my own sermons and said, “It’s so boring to listen to me preach!” Every Sunday I would freeze up and tell myself, “Oh no, I have to preach again!” – not knowing what to preach. The moment came where I wrongly chose to use sermon outlines others had made. This discouraged the church.

LRI’s training has been a great blessing to me and has revived my passion for preaching. It has helped me desire to study the Word of God. Now our church is experiencing great spiritual growth. The pulpit now is no longer a burden, but a blessing.

God has done beautiful things through the preaching. The elders now say, “Pastor, how your preaching style has changed! And it is changing our church.”

LRI’s training has been a blessing to me, and I want to be a blessing to others. We have had the opportunity to teach others and go to other countries like Nicaragua. We are already going to work with pastors there in communities where perhaps the pastors have not had the opportunity to be trained, or if they have, they are struggling like I was. This training has been a huge blessing for them as well. . . .

Many thanks to those who have supported this ministry and those who took this training to us. I am truly a different person.

Praise God for Pastor William’s transformation! Praise God for how His Word is building up this Costa Rican church and churches in neighboring Nicaragua. Stories like this are why we do what we do, because, as our mission states, we long to see the Word of God flow powerfully through every church to every nation.

Thank you for your partnership and helping make stories like William’s possible.

To God be the glory!

Craig Parro

PS: You can help bring this kind of transformation to pastors like William by making a gift to the Latin America region.


Watch Pastor William tell his story below:

* Edited for clarity and readability

Putting God’s Glory on Display Together: The Story of Dave Jaspers

Leadership Resources’ ministry relies on gospel partnership, individuals, and churches who share our vision of seeing the Word of God flow powerfully from every church to every nation.

Dave Jaspers is one partner God has transformed through our relationship. Even though he has decades of preaching experience, advanced education, and is a third generation pastor, God used the Fellowship of the Word program to greatly sharpen his handling of God’s Word.

Watch Dave share his story below. Scroll down to the second video to see Dave share how our partnership to train Colombian pastors has transformed his church’s missions strategy.

We are grateful for our partners, Pastor Dave Jaspers and Ridgewood Baptist Church, and seeing God’s glory displayed in our partnership.

Learn more about the Fellowship of the Word program or how your church can partner with Leadership Resources to equip pastors worldwide in biblical exposition in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America.

 

     

    Launching Pastoral Training Movements Worldwide

     

    The mission of Leadership Resources is to launch pastoral training movements worldwide. This blog shares articles, resources, and updates from staff of God’s work around the world through our training. If you’re new to our blog, start here.

     


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