Many of us who preach have re-preached a message to the same congregation. I'm not arguing there's never a time to move in this direction, but I do encourage us to ask at least these questions first:
1. How much have I prayed about using this sermon again? If you haven't sought God's direction about the sermon, you need to start there. Sensing God's guidance through prayer might give you confidence in re-preaching the sermon—or lead you in another direction.
2. Why do I want to repeat this sermon? If it's simply because you were lazy or disorganized and didn't take time to prepare a sermon, that response is insufficient. On the other hand, it might be that unexpected ministry needs really did consume your time—including your study time. In some cases, you might simply believe that current circumstances in your church and community warrant using the same message.
3. When was the last time I preached this message? Obviously, the longer the time is between the two sermons, the better. If your church has grown at all in the interim period, it's likely you'll be preaching to two different congregations. I trust you will also have grown yourself in the intervening years.
4. Have I spent time reviewing and revising the sermon? No preacher I know preaches a perfect sermon every time. Even if you're preaching the same message, your preparation should include revising and strengthening it. I assume the sermon would be better the second time around.
5. Have I updated illustrations from the first sermon? It may work to use the same illustrations, but there are times when an illustration in the first sermon doesn't fit in the second one. That means we have more work to do before preaching the message.
6. Have I filtered my own life through the sermon before preaching it? That is, have I spent God-directed time in allowing the message to speak to my life first? We must do that every time we preach, but it's easy to minimize that step when re-preaching a sermon.
7. Am I so convinced my re-preaching the sermon is God's will that I'm willing to explain that point to my listeners? It's my preference to proactively say to the church something like this: "I preached this message here ____ years ago. Some of you may have even recorded in your Bible what the Lord taught you that day. I'm convinced we need to address those same truths again today, so let's look with fresh eyes at today's Bible text."
What questions would you add to this list?
Chuck Lawless is dean of doctoral studies and vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is team leader for theological education strategists for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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