The Overview SermonNovember 28, 2007
On Sunday past, I had the daunting priviledge of preaching on four chapters of Jeremiah. Even more challenging, they were chapters 46 to 49 of the prophecy. Nine oracles of judgement upon the nations!
As well as the obvious theological and apologetical challenges such a portion poses, I also wrestled with how to preach what was essentially an overview sermon. Here are some suggestions I would give in hindsight if you must do the same:
i) Help them see the wood for the trees.
Give them the main thrust of the section. My overarching point for Sunday (which I also thought was the main point of the text!) was that God is sovereign over all nations. Whatever else the congregation didn’t understand, they could at least go home with that overarching point. An overview sermon cannot highlight every specific detail; but if it does not highlight the overarching point of the section it is undoubtedly a failure.
ii) Point out the main landmarks in the text.
I suggested near the outset of my sermon that it was going to be rather like an aeroplane coming into land. The plane is too high to see everything in detail, but low enough to see any significant structures on the ground. My proposal was that I was the fellow passenger pointing out the major landmarks, but people would have to examine things in closer detail after landing! In the case of Jeremiah 46 through 49 I pointed out that i) God knows the sins of the nations, ii) God judges the sins of the nations, and iii) God saves the nations from their sins.
iii) Spend some time doing more detailed exposition.
Do some detailed exposition. Just because you can’t cover all of it in depth, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t cover some of it. On several ocassions, we slowed down to identity smaller areas of the text. I also read most of chapter 46 so that we had some specific focus.
iv) Give them homework.
Since you are bounding over the text, and also because the congregation are relying on your study more than usual in overview sermons- be sure to encourage the congregation to look at the passage further in their own time. At one point I encouraged people to read through the four chapters identifying the sins specific to each nation. It is especially important in overview sermons that the congregation are willing to do such further study.