The next preaching pattern is the topical sermon. The topical sermon is usually based on a doctrine, teaching, or contemporary issue affecting the congregation. The preacher attempts to help the congregation understand and interpret the topic from the perspective of the gospel.
The preacher draws from many sources including the Bible, history, theology, and philosophy. Allen states that the “text” of the sermon is the gospel and not a particular biblical text.
When To Preach Topically
Typical occasions to preach topically is when a particular issue is larger than one text or when the Bible doesn’t directly address a particular subject.
Allen notes that the great danger is what he calls “theological amnesia.” Here the preacher spends so much time looking at the subject from many perspectives and never gets to the gospel perspective. An example may be when a preacher talks about the physiological, cultural, and economic impacts of racism, but never gets to what the gospel has to say about the issue.
We should not think of the topical sermon as simply stringing together a number of texts. Instead, there should be a strong theological perspective undergirding the texts chosen. This is a subtle difference, but an important one nonetheless.
I think that another problem that could occur when preachers preach topical sermons is that a preacher might become a “johnny one note.” Here the preacher only preaches sermons on one topic over and over again. This can be an issue for all patterns, but more so for the topical one. the preacher can alleviate this problem by looking at the topic from different angles than the preacher usually does. In any case, this can be a powerful method to teach a doctrine.