When you plan your sermon series, it’s important to take into account the time factor. Let me explain what I mean.
The time factor (the how-long) in a sermon series relates not only to individual sermons but also to each group of messages in a sermon series. To illustrate this, let’s say you decide to preach some messages based on Paul’s letter to the Galatians. The traditional approach would be to start with chapter 1, verse 1 and divide the book into sequential sections that can be covered reasonably in the course of a sermon. You could take a quick look at Galatians’ six chapters and estimate on your own about how many sermons that would require.
The alternative approach I’m suggesting for your sermon series is first to determine the subject of Paul’s letter. Most scholars agree that Galatians is about the freedom believers have in Christ. This is in contrast to trying to live by the Old Testament law, as certain Jewish leaders were demanding of early Gentile converts. Of course this new freedom in Christ does not grant license to live any way one pleases. Instead, what Paul writes about is responsible freedom.
The reason the apostle hopes and prays to see among his friends in the church at Galatia in his letter about responsible freedom is that Christians be led by the Holy Spirit, or live by the Spirit, keep in step with the Spirit, sew to the Spirit, etc. Paul uses a number of phrases that all refer to the same concept.
Does the average Christian today know how to do this—how to live by the Spirit? Most likely the answer is no.
Rather than spell out some appropriate how-to’s, allow me to ask again: As you consider what you want to accomplish in your sermon series, ask how long will it take to teach those listening to the series how to live by the Spirit? Can this be done in one Sunday? Unlikely. Two Sundays? Probably not. It will take at least six to eight Sundays to accomplish such a task.
Fine. Then that’s approximately how long it will take to teach what the book of Galatians is about. Meeting this bottom-line concern with every sermon series you plan. Think about how long will it take for listeners to begin learning to live by the Spirit—has little to do with how many pages, chapters, paragraphs, sentences or words are in the epistle. To bring Paul’s words alive for this generation will be determined, more than anything else, by the subject, response, how-to’s, and by how long it takes to see that these truths are built into people’s lives. More specifically, how many Sundays will it take before those hearing the Galatians series start to be more and more sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and therefore learn to live in responsible freedom? Make sense?