Here is a situation that I face often and never really a good solution for it.
Sometimes I have been called upon to fill a pulpit for a pastor who is on vacation or an emergency requires him to be gone. The biggest challenge that I face (and others who find themselves in similar situations) is how to know what to preach to a church where you have never been and you do not know much about the church or the community. Sometimes there would be enough time to write a sermon, other times, the notice was last-minute.
What I have usually done was either preach a sermon that I had recently written, or preach something that I knew fairly well. I have never had the opportunity to preach a series because most of my preaching engagements are usually single invitations for one service or two, never an extended period of time (like a Bible Conference, etc.)
It has always bothered me to some extent because I always seemed to struggle not knowing what God would have me preach to a particular group of people. Pastors who preach week in and week out and if they use expository preaching do not have this problem because they are usually working through a book of the Bible and they go from pericope to pericope within the book itself.
In the last several months I have had the opportunity to preach in several churches. I believe that the Lord has blessed the ministry of the Word in those contexts. I have two more opportunities in the next few weeks.
I have prayed about this and have decided to attempt something in my next few preaching engagements. Instead of agonizing over what to preach, I am going to work through a book of the Bible (in this case the book of 1 Peter) and preach through the book verse by verse in my different engagements (unless I find myself preaching on a special Sunday, or if the Pastor is currently going through the book, or if I am ever asked to preach on a specific topic or from a specific passage ((never happens to me)). If I am ever invited to candidate somewhere, I will re-think this approach.
I think that this will alleviate the pressure that I face with each occasion trying to discern what to preach. I look forward to working through the book of 1 Peter and who knows how long it will take me. I will report back if this method is a success or a colossal mistake on my part.
As always, comments and suggestions are welcome…