I’m not known as a decider. I’ll leave that title to former President Bush. The usual scenario when I’m in a restaurant with friends is to listen to everyone else order, then I’ll eventually make up my mind about what I’ll have.
Many people can look at a menu and narrow their choices quickly by eliminating what they don’t like. I like too many things. Chicken, beef, seafood, pasta…sure, I’ll have some of that.
When it’s time for me to preach or teach, I have the same problem. It’s not that I can’t think of anything to preach about. There are too many choices. There is much that God wants us to hear and many ways to say it. There are over 31,000 verses in the Bible and, as Paul said…
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”*
All Scripture. That’s too many choices.
Many pastors/teachers/preachers have this same problem. That’s why many of them use sermon series. My pastor does it all the time. Yours probably does, too.
But, I’m not the lead pastor. I don’t have 3 or 4 weeks at a time to do a sermon series. As a staff pastor, I preach whenever. That’s usually not very frequently. A Sunday night here, a Wednesday night there. Hardly ever on a Sunday morning.
That left me with the same frustration every time I had the opportunity to preach – what do I preach on? What will be the text? What will be the subject? It seemed like I spent as much time figuring out what the text would be as I did preparing the rest of the sermon.
The solution was to start preaching a series. That’s what real pastors do. The key would be in selecting a series that wouldn’t conflict with all the other series that would likely pop up during my series. It couldn’t be something common or ordinary like “Life’s Healing Choices” or “Lifestyles of Generosity” or “Fear” or “Worship“. It needed to be something that my pastor wouldn’t likely do a series on.
The book of Numbers. I’ve never heard a series on it. It’s briefly mentioned if someone ever does a “Through the Bible” series. But no one goes through Numbers verse-by-verse. Too many names. Too many verses that have seemingly nothing “useful”, as Paul said it would.
Try to preach through Numbers, and what will you do when you get to passages like Numbers 26? It’s chock-full of stuff like the 5th verse:
The descendants of Reuben, the firstborn son of Israel, were:
through Hanoch, the Hanochite clan;
through Pallu, the Palluite clan…
And frightening if you would actually try to do a series on it.
Naturally, that’s what I decided to do. Any time I am able to preach on a Wednesday night – which is called a Bible study night at my church – I teach through the book of Numbers. The names, the genealogies, the censuses, the Levitical rituals…everything, verse-by-verse.
The series – Numb3rs, in so many words – began on November 9, 2005. This coming Wednesday – November 4, 2009 – I’ll be preaching part 20, as we begin Numbers chapter 19. There are 36 chapters in Numbers, so I still have some time before I have to pick my next Wednesday night series.
In the meantime, I decided to post the text of the entire series here on SarcasticMonkeys. There isn’t much commentary or teaching based on the book of Numbers, so I thought this might be interesting. I won’t post it all at once, because I need to go back through it and make it readable for the web. I’ll also need to try to make appropriate attributions for the things I stole referenced from other sources – if I can remember where I got them.
This kicks off a new section of the site where I hope to be posting the some of the things I’ve taught or preached that others might find useful or interesting. Enjoy.
[Updated: 11/01/09 – As if to illustrate the point that my opportunities to preach are tenuous at best, I found out this morning – as Pastor told the congregation – that he invited a guest speaker for Wednesday. I guess Part 20 will wait. Such is the life of a staff pastor.]