As I began to plan for the 2018 preaching calendar, I asked the church to pray that I would receive clear direction. I set aside Sept. 26th as a day to fast, pray, and study. My specific prayer was to receive a good portion of clarity regarding 2018, but we all know that God does exceedingly abundantly above all we could ask or think (Eph. 3:20).
Instead of receiving direction for just 2018, I actually have an outline through Easter in April 2019.
I cannot express my gratitude enough for your prayers. As I prayed, I had one constant plea: “Lord, please help our church learn how to make disciples in the coming year.”
So my time sorting out what to preach all rallied around that point. In a simple summary, the preaching plan focuses on 3 sections of Scripture:
- Colossians (January 7 – March 25, 2018)
- Make Disciples [A Study of Matthew 28 – Easter and Following] (April 1-22, 2018)
- Mark (April 29, 2018 – April 21, 2019)
Paul’s letter to the Colossians is a wonderful body of work that rejects mediocre discipleship by exalting the incomparable Christ. The balance of belief and behavior is a great setup for biblical discipleship. We will study how a disciple’s doctrine forms his devotion.
Why “Make Disciples?”
A focus on Matthew 28 for 4 Sundays will be critical as we go forward. On Easter, we will focus on Jesus’ resurrection. The following 3 Sundays we will examine the Great Commission and how it changes our lives and our church.
If you are going to spend significant time learning how to make disciples, you study an expert. How could we go to another source other than the Master Himself, Jesus? The task of preaching through a Gospel takes a significant portion of time, so I had to think through which one and how detailed?
So, why Mark instead of Matthew, Luke, or John?
- To become disciple-makers, we need to study the life of the original disciple maker.
- Mark was the first gospel written.
- Matthew and Luke got much of their information from Mark.
- Follow up series in the years to come could be developed based other distinctives contained within individual Gospels (e.g., Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Luke’s extra parables, or John’s theological discourses).
- Mark calls for immediate discipleship.
- Mark got his information from eye-witness Peter.
- He wrote to a fast-paced, religiously-confused culture that was escalating in its persecution of Christianity (can you think of a culture where that might apply today?).
After reading through the Gospel of Mark in one sitting, I was convinced this path was the route to take. I read it a second time and just did a sample series outline and came up with 48 sermons. I thought it might be too long so I tried to reduce it and I could only lower that list to 45.
I then wondered, “Why am I so eager to rush through the discipleship example of Jesus? What if we just spent an entire year following Him through the Gospel of Mark?”
By slowing down through certain passages, I easily got to 52 sermons. I planned the resurrection sermon for Easter (April 21, 2019) and worked backwards.
Using that plan, I then wondered what about holidays and certain emphases. Would it work? Would I ever need to press pause?
- Before Valentine’s Day, Jesus speaks about real love.
- Before Christmas, Jesus talks about children and the dangerous trap of possessions.
- At our mission highlight times, Jesus is addressing the nations.
Maybe Jesus has a plan. Why should that surprise me?
My only hesitation was that it was committing to a year-long sermon series. Would people get tired of it?
If a year in Mark seems long, I am saying that 52 weeks of Jesus is too much.
Personally, I can’t wait to begin. As you prayed for direction, let us praise God for His provision. The 2018[ish] sermons are all geared towards seeing a discipleship movement happen within our church that will spill out into our city and to the nations. Who is ready to begin?
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.
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