As ministers of the gospel, we want to build our people up in the faith and equip them for works of service. We are called to do that through the ministry of the word and want to proclaim the whole counsel of God. But how do we do that? Here are some obvious, but important things.
Aim to preach through all the Bible
It seems obvious enough, but we should be aiming to preach through the whole of scripture. We shouldn’t “uncouple” from the Old Testament, as some have suggested. We shouldn’t just stick with our favourite books. We need to be actively aiming to teach through the whole of scripture. That includes Old and New Testaments, the bits we find easy and the bits we don’t. Aim to teach through the whole thing, however long that may take.
Don’t skip bits
Again, it seems obvious enough. But I remember being encouraged by one member to skip some of the bits of scripture that might “put people off”. I recently had a discussion with someone else who told me of a church that wondered why they had public sin going on unaddressed when they decided to skip large chunks of the Bible that would have addressed them. But the whole of scripture is breathed out by God and it is all profitable for us. We shouldn’t pick and choose the bits we are going to teach and preach but should be aiming to cover all of it. If we have long passages to preach, don’t fail to read them out. Don’t skip over it. Don’t forget that it is the Word that carries highest authority in the church. Teach it all and don’t miss bits out.
It is legitimate to preach thematically if you want. There may be call for it from time to time. But if you want to ensure you aren’t skipping bits, preach systematically. No passage of scripture stands alone, but has a particular setting within its book. Systematic preaching most helpfully brings that out. No book stands alone, but has a particular place in the canon and salvation-history, again, systematic preaching helps pay attention to that. If you want to make sure you are preaching the whole counsel of God, systematically preaching book by book will help you do it.
Don’t flatten the text in front of you
It’s very easy, when faced with a tricky passage, to slide into another bit of the Bible and start teaching that. We might do this because of some connection we have made. It may well be a legitimate connection, but that doesn’t mean both passages are about the same thing. We will fail to teach the whole counsel of God if we frequently slide away from the passage in front of us to teach another passage that might be easier to handle. We must resist that temptation.
Don’t shy away from clear implications
Scripture is not an academic text there merely to be dissected and understood. It is God’s Word to his people given so that we might be conformed to the likeness of Christ. A text that is not applied has not been adequately preached. Which means we should not shy away from the clear implications of God’s Word for the people in front of us. It is often tempting not to highlight the implications because we fear the reaction of those in front of us. But if we are to teach the whole counsel of God, we must preach the text and teach the clear implications of what it means without fear or favour.