As a pastor, if I notice a deficiency in our congregation, one common way to address it is by planning a sermon series on the concerning topic.
- Are marriages falling apart? Let’s do a relationship series.
- Are people in massive debt? Let’s do a financial series.
- Are people overwhelmed with anxiety? Let’s do a series on peace.
The concept makes perfect sense. It is wise to address any obvious need within a congregation, and there is no wider microphone to use than the one from the pulpit.
But what if preaching isn’t enough? What if issues like these require more?
Sermon series cannot fix all discipleship problems.
They can be part of the solution, but they cannot fix it all by themselves. If sanctifying work is required, we often need more than a 6-week series that can motivate yet not complete. We need a long-term strategy and valuable relationships.
3 Elements Needed for Discipleship
What is necessary to see lasting change?
- The Word of God – If there is a seismic issue in your congregation, preach on it. Don’t get on a soapbox, but stand firm on the truth. Let the Word of God speak to the issue from the pulpit, and provide your best to plead the truth passionately.
- The Spirit of God – We cannot change without the help of the Holy Spirit. Even if you are the best preacher in the world, we are dependent upon a move of God. If the transformation was dependent upon the quality of your prayers over the subject, how much change happens?
- The People of God – In addition to the previous two critical elements, the church is an integral part of any type of life change. Without an opportunity for people to meet with, be coached by, or mentored through the issues by godly helpers, much of the motivation may be lost.
Sermons series cannot fix all discipleship problems, but they can play a crucial catalytic component.
A sermon does wonders to a room full of people, but people often need someone to sit down with afterward to receive clarity and accountability to act upon it right then and there. I want the ability to figure out who needs a patient word of encouragement and who needs a sincere word of caution.
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.1 Thessalonians 5:14
A sermon hits everyone with the same content, but everyone listening is in a different spot. Some are idle, some are fainthearted, and some are weak. For me to be patient with them all is a posture that can be attempted via a sermon, but much of discipleship must happen on a smaller scale. I can’t know how to help someone apply something until I truly know them. That’s why we need sermon series, but we need something more than them as well.
When we often see dangerous trends within our churches, we plan a sermon series to address them hoping that a six-week emphasis will do the trick. But what if people actually need more than that?
After the Series
I often reflect on numerous times in my own life when my passion for change was not accompanied by a plan to change it. How many sermons have I heard where I was motivated sincerely but lacked straightforward applications? How many sermons have I personally preached like that?
I am learning the need to work hard on the sermon and prepare well for its conclusion.
- Preach a passionate series on marriage but have mentoring couples primed to walk with people after it.
- Preach a hard-hitting series on the danger of financial missteps but have a budgeting course ready to begin at the end of the series.
- Preach a thoroughly biblical approach to dealing with anxiety but have next steps at the end of the series full of resources, counselors, and opportunities to get help.
The Word of God does wonders through a sermon series, but it needs the power of the Spirit of God and the plans with the People of God to see long-lasting change take place. In our packaging of stellar sermon series, let’s make sure we have the next steps to help our people see actual progress.