A shepherd knows his sheep and how to lead them to the best pastures. He knows the habits of his flock, the distractions along their path, and their deficiencies. Thus, he plans ahead to make certain the sheep graze on the choicest grass, take the right path, that their habits do not become harmful, and he sees to it they are strengthened in weaknesses. The pastor must take the same care in leading his church. His preaching plan anticipates the protection, guidance, and nourishment of the souls in his flock, and it is good for him to consider the special occasions that arise along a fifty-two-week journey in a preaching calendar. This is one way he ensures he is leading them into the will of God through the preaching ministry.
I like to think of special days on a preaching calendar in two categories. First, there are days the pastor cannot ignore. Easter and Christmas are obvious occasions that present the opportunity to expound passages dealing with key doctrines of the faith. Many churches have traditions and expectations that may lead you to give attention to other special days. These may include Mother’s Day, Veterans Day, July 4th, or even a Homecoming Sunday. Such occasions present the pastor with the opportunity to deliver a sermon that will help his people think biblically about important issues that the world often distorts. Most of these days draw unbelievers to the church and provide a unique chance to preach Christ in a way that connects the gospel with the occasion that has already captured their attention. Other circumstances such as natural disasters, tragedies, current events, and national or international incidents may require the pastor to alter his preaching plan. These should be considered as they arise, and when certain instances weigh heavy on the hearts of our people we must shepherd them with the comfort and wisdom of the Word.
Second, the pastor should designate some days to emphasize spiritual disciplines that are key to the health of his people. Evangelism, missions, stewardship, prayer, and service are just some of the disciplines that should be considered on a preaching calendar. The pastor may discover these are addressed in the text as he plans his preaching through a book of the Bible. That is the ideal situation, but consideration should be given to the spiritual needs of the church and whether it is necessary to set dates on the calendar to address these matters through the preaching ministry.
There is one caution for the pastor as he plans his preaching calendar. Special Days can become idols. If we are not watchful, the special occasions that our churches love to celebrate become sinful expressions of something that God intended to glorify Himself. The occasion receives our worship and praise when tradition is allowed to trump the text. Pastor, the pulpit is entrusted to us, and our own hearts are not immune to idolatry. The preaching plan is ours and we will give account for what is preached. Be careful to not allow your wants and desires or those of your people to dictate your preaching. It is good and acceptable to have traditions in your church family. Nurture those that are honoring to God and correct those that are a stumbling block. As goes your preaching ministry so goes the life and health of the church. Lead your people to think biblically about the special days they hold close to their hearts. God’s word is sufficient and the text will tame tradition. Special days on our preaching calendar are special because God has presented us a unique opportunity to exalt Christ before an audience primed to celebrate. Plan your special days well. Preach the Word. Point your people to Jesus and praise His name.
Tim Wheeless is on staff at Northeast Houston Baptist Church in Humble, Texas, and is a Church Planter in Denver, Colorado.