Do You Preach The Theme or God’s Word?

Someone sent in the following question that I thought might be of interest to the community as a whole:

What are your thoughts on Preaching on Theme topics ( Pastor Anniversary, Church Anniversary, Women’s Day, Men’s Day, Youth Day etc.). Should I try to build a message off of the topic and/or scripture they have given to me, or should I seek the Lord for what God would have me to preach and possibly offend the Chairperson, Host person or Pastor. And if I do not preach the theme, should I apologize for ignoring their theme. Please help?


Mennonitengemeinde_Kochendorf_KanzelShort answer is Yes…I believe that you should both preach God’s word and preach the theme assigned to you by the worship leaders.

Now let me tell you why…

Does God Only Speak To The Preacher?

First a few things to consider. We must recognize that God works through and with our plans and preparation. By that I mean that we hope that the worship leaders were in consultation with God when they selected the theme of the worship. At least they should have. If God told them to have a Men’s day program or a Youth day program, and you go and do something else, then you have limited the effectiveness of God’s intended plan.

Another related issue that preachers must keep in mind is that they are not the only people that God speaks to and through. God also speaks to the worship planners who have planned this program. Incidentally, God chose you as the speaker through that same organization or auxiliary that decided to give you the theme or scripture.

How Do You Do This?

So I would argue that you should preach the theme and/or scripture assigned. Now. I do wish to clear up another misconception that I feel is in the question. Preaching to a theme is not at odds with preaching the scripture. You always preach the scripture. I say it this way, no matter how you got the scripture, once you get the scripture, the scripture is in the driver’s seat. You do not use the scripture or abuse the scripture to fit any particular theme. I would be very leery if the organization gave you both the scripture AND the theme. I know that happens and it really puts you in a straightjacket and kind of makes it difficult to preach the scripture. However, in many cases they only give you the theme…

OK, so what do you do?

If you have a theme you go find a scripture that you think addresses that theme. You exegete the scripture. If after some exegesis you realize the scripture doesn’t really address the theme, then you go find another scripture until you find one that really addresses your theme.

If they give you both the scripture and the theme and after some initial exegesis you don’t feel the scripture addresses the theme, then let them know and suggest another scripture. Needless to say, you can’t do this and preach a “Saturday Night Special.”

After having said all that, Think about it this way. If you were a pastor and you in consultation with God and your congregation have put together a youth program and you have a theme related to the youth and you signed up choirs to come and address that theme and you invited other people to be there in line with that theme and you decided to invite a preacher to address that theme.. and the preacher decided to preach about how the elderly need to stand up in their golden years. How would you feel? Would you invite that preacher again?

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you…

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Sherman Haywood Cox II

Sherman Haywood Cox II is the director of Soul Preaching. He holds the M.Div with an emphasis in Homiletics and a M.S. in Computer Science.

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