The Sermon Series: A Crash Course

by John Anderson

jump!I (Peck) have been a proponent of taking preaching seriously for many years. Advancing in homiletics skill also means advancing in homiletics planning, and the sermon series has real value to the congregation whose needs are known by their priest.

John Anderson gives an excellent introduction to this important pastoral tool for preachers.

Guys, don’t wait – jump in.

Preaching in a highly liturgical Tradition like the Orthodox Christian Church can be a very delightful honor for those who get to preach every Sunday. Those familiar enough with Orthodoxy also know that we have a liturgical calendar with set readings for each Sunday that come from the Epistles in the New Testament as well as the Gospels. The great thing about the calendar is that the text is already chosen for the preacher every week. However, the bad thing is that we can get locked into using the calendar over and over again. The calendar does not have all of the Scripture within the readings either, so that means that you are missing out on certain Scriptures if one stays locked into the calendar.

I believe there is a way to avoid getting in the calendar slump: creating a preaching sermon series. I believe there is a great freedom within creating a sermon series:

  • You can preach your way through an entire book of the Scriptures or certain aspects of those books
  • You can do topical preaching
  • You can preach on certain doctrinal beliefs,
  • You can do a series on the Fathers or the Nicene Creed

The possibilities for doing a sermon series really are limitless. I want to offer here a crash course with some basic instructions I have learned and how I would approach it myself in order to help you get started:

  1. Discover (planning)- the first step one should begin with is to sit down alone, or with your preaching team if you have implemented that, and plan your series. You need to pick a route you want to go with it and the way to get there. This involves primarily deciding what the series will be about. This is the discovery stage. You discover what you want to preach on and how to go about it.
  2. Discuss– the next step for me would be discussing what you have discovered. How is it relevant to the needs of your parish and the concerns, trials, questions, and problems they may or may not be experiencing? Discuss how you are going to go about planning the series. Will you plan a few weeks ahead? Will you do one week ahead? Will you sit down and outline all the sermons within the series or take it a few at a time? You and your team will need to focus on what Scriptures to incorporate and how they fit into the series’ route. What do you want the series to accomplish for your listeners? All of these are questions that I would include in this stage of the sermon series.
  3. Develop– this is the meaty part of the process that I really want to elaborate on and show you by example of one way to go about doing this. This stage is when you begin to write the series out on paper and outline it with the sermons that it will include. You will be developing the sermons in an outline form at this point. Here are  some things that need to occur within this stage:
  • Give a title for the series (if not already decided earlier)
  • What do you want this series to accomplish?
  • Then outline the sermons and include the title, text, thesis statement, and purpose statement of each sermon.
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Those steps are just a few of the process when viewed from the big picture for me. One can take those steps and break them down further and add more steps to the craft. As I have said this is but a crash course. I will be creating a sermon series on Hebrews 10. I find it very helpful to have the Scriptures you preaching on, if you are using that method, laid out in front of you. When I did the series on this chapter I went through and highlighted each Scripture that contributed to the corresponding sermon. Nonetheless, let’s get to the sermon series:


A Sermon Series on Hebrews 10

Series Purpose– My hope in this series is that we comprehend and wake up the reality that we have been cleansed by the Blood of the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world. We are to not turn our backs on that nor have contempt for grace, but instead we utilize and live this reality to face our sufferings and persecution joyfully.

Sermon I- “Made Holy Through Sacrifice” 

  • Text- Hebrews 10:8-10
  • Thesis- We are made holy through the Sacrifice of Christ
  • Purpose- After hearing this sermon, the parish should perceive we have been declared holy once and for all by the Sacrifice of Christ’s body.

Sermon II- “Holy Sanctification” 

  • Text- Hebrews 10:11-14
  • Thesis- Holiness is a continual work of the Spirit
  • Purpose- After hearing this sermon, the parish should register the reality deep within their hearts of how we have been declared holy by Christ, but are being made holy and sanctified by the Holy Spirit daily. This is paradoxical, but nonetheless reality.
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Sermon III- “Holiness Allows Encounter” 

  • Text- Hebrews 10:19-22
  • Thesis- Being holy and wholly cleansed draws us near to God
  • Purpose- After hearing this sermon, the parish should realize our holy cleansing and sanctification opens us to relationship with God. The Son’s sacrifice declared us holy enough to have His very presence dwell within us in order to bring us to righteousness and theosis.

Sermon IV- “A Sacrifice Worthy of Reverence” 

  • Text- Hebrews 10:26-29
  • Thesis- The Lamb’s sacrifice and grace deserves our reverence and thanksgiving
  • Purpose- After hearing this sermon, our salvation being a gift should dawn on the purpose. The sacrifice deserves the utmost respect, awe, and reverence. We are to be thankful for our salvation. We are to be a Eucharistic community bearing thanks for our communion via the Eucharist, which we approach in holy awe. We are to be living as a redeemed people!

Sermon V- “Better and Lasting Possession” 

  • Text- Hebrews 10:32-34
  • Thesis- Our rewards are not of this world
  • Purpose- After hearing this sermon the parish acknowledges that our salvation will bring suffering that we should stand our ground against so that we don’t lose hope. Our rewards for this are not worldly, material goods, but rewards of the eternal nature.


You can see that the sermon series flows well with the texts and is relevant to our parish. The series should not be chunky or hard to follow. The series should proceed smoothly and continuing in thought and application.

This is but a crash course on how to approach a sermon series. As I have said, the possibilities really are unlimited. The way to fashion the sermons whether it be deductively or inductively are also limitless. Be creative!

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There is so much opportunity for creativity in the process. The greatest way to utilize that creativity is by collaboration with a preaching team. I highly suggest approaching the art, craft, and call of preaching with a team that has the gifts to do so.

The point of preaching is for edification of the Body of Christ, for the edification of the parish. I firmly believe utilizing a series can bring about such edification both for the preacher(s) and the parish. May your series be to the edification of the listeners and for the glory of God.


About Fr. John A. Peck

Director of the Preachers Institute, priest in the Orthodox Church in America, award-winning graphic designer and media consultant, and non-profit administrator.
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