Regular preachers need to be more like starters than bench players.
The bench player is a specialist. A southpaw might take the mound to pitch to one player. A sharp shooter enters the game to knock down threes to spark a comeback.
But the starters need to do everything well. These are the triple-threat basketball players, athletes who can shoot, pass, or drive to the basket. These are the five-tool baseball players, guys who can hit for average, hit for power, throw, field, and run fast around the bases.
The triple threat, five-tool preacher is characterized by variety in his sermons. He varies his structure, tone, and delivery of the sermon, so that his church never hears the same message twice.
Must you add variety to your sermons?
Why can’t you just preach three points and a poem on a weekly basis if that’s what you’re good at? Fair question, but here are some reasons why you shouldn't:
· You won’t reach diverse people if you don’t vary your sermons. Your church will be filled with people who resemble you, crippling outreach to various personality types and ethnic groups. If you preach only Paul, you will have only analytical thinkers. How will you reach creatives?
· Also, you won’t preach the whole counsel of God. The content of the Bible varies broadly in genre and tone. If you can’t preach all of it, you will neglect many books of the Bible.
· Finally, you will bore your church! God’s world and God’s word both demonstrate that he has created us for variety. When you become predictable your people lose interest.
How to add variety to your sermons
Although five-tool baseball players are a rare commodity, there is no reason why you can’t develop a broader skill set behind the pulpit. All it takes is intentionality, and a bit of practice. Here are three simple ways to change things up.
1. Let 2 Timothy 3:16 guide you toward sermon variety
This verse provides a formula for adding variety to your sermons. What Scripture is useful for—teaching, rebuke, correction, and training in righteousness—suggests at least four types of sermons: theological, confrontational, encouraging, and practical. That’s a nice monthly variety. However, most pastors are drawn primarily to one, given their personality.
There are two ways to make sure you don’t overdo the type you are most drawn toward.
· First, take your cues from the passage to determine if it naturally fits in one of the four categories of 2 Timothy 3:16. For example, if it is a confrontational passage (think Gal. 1:6-10), don’t preach it all warm and fuzzy. Rebuke! Or if it is a passage that pleads (think Gal. 4:8-20), don’t extinguish that passion with unnecessary word studies. Plead!
· Second, when a passage fits a couple of the categories of the 2 Timothy verse, take your cue from the past month of your preaching. Have you preached a couple heavy, didactic sermons lately because you are in the first half of Ephesians? Figure out a way to make the next passage a bit more practical.
The 2 Timothy 3:16 is not a perfect model. The usefulness of Scripture, after all, is not limited to the four benefits Paul lists, and every sermon should contain a bit of all four characteristics. That said, it’s still a helpful guide to get started on sermon variety.