How I Choose what to preach

“How do you decide what to preach about?”
I generally plan topics anywhere from 1 to 3 months in advance (though this morning I was discussing topics for October…5 months out.) I usually think in terms of series rather than stand-alone messages (though I do those at times).
There are multiple factors that go into making that decision.
1. First, of course, I start with prayer. I seek to listen to what I sense the Lord is saying to me about what the congregation needs to hear. It is his church, and he knows what is they need.
2. Directional needs of the congregation. Do we need to recapture our passion for evangelism? Prayer? Serving the poor? Preaching can help catalyze the direction of the church.
A while ago I felt it was important our church have a clear sense of who Jesus is and kingdom values. So I started a series of messages through the book of Luke.
3. A balance between:
a. challenge and comfort – prophetic and pastoral.
b. series which are targeting at growing the believers with those designed to speak to unreached.
c. work through biblical books with free-standing topical themes.
4. Theme ideas can emerge from:
– Needs or questions or I hear repeatedly in casual conversations
– Truths that grip me in my own devotional time
– Issues arising from the culture
5. Standard recurring themes: there are some topics which need to be addressed regularly (though not necessarily each year): marriage, money, forgiveness, evangelism are a few. If I realize that it’s been a long time since we’ve addressed one of those, I will put it in the mix.
6. More and more I like to preach through books of the Bible, as they prompt me to speak on what I otherwise wouldn’t, and it gives people a chance to digest God’s agenda.
I have also started sharing the preaching plan with our executive staff and getting their input. It’s a great way to sharpen and improve my thinking.