Vacationing in Rome by Dr. Safiyah Fosua

Summer’s coming along with vacation time and, in some churches, lower church attendance as church families take to the roads (or to the streams) during the hot summer months.  Depending upon where you serve, your summer worship planning may be scaled down or ramped up!  Either way, a series is an excellent way to organize your worship planning for this season.

There are several schools of thought around the topic of series planning.  A series might be planned around a single topic, a series of interlocking themes, a Bible person, a doctrine, or it may be an intentional teaching through one or more books of the Bible. Topical and thematic series are often easier to plan when a pastor has been in leadership at a congregation long enough to know the congregation and its needs.  For example, a rural congregation whose members have suffered from the unpredictable nature of rains and drought may need a series designed to remind them of the love and mindfulness of God toward His creation.  While leadership teams attempting to shape an overarching vision with their congregations might do so through a series of interlocking themes, intentionally placed in a progression that leads to their final visioning process.

Leaders of established congregations, looking to increase the discipleship of the congregation might select a series that highlights the growth and development of one or more notable bible characters, like David or Moses.  And for those congregations that are more mature (or looking to become more mature) a doctrinal series that highlights the teachings of Jesus or Paul may prove to be helpful.

A series of any length requires advanced planning that offers both the preaching pastor and his/her worship team an opportunity to do their best work. Though a pastor might “wing it alone” by focusing only the sermon on the series, congregations tend to hear and receive the themes of the series in a deeper way when those ideas are offered throughout the entire worship service:  woven into the songs that you select for singing (any style), the creeds or affirmations spoken as an act of worship, or the prayers prayed (written or spontaneous) with your selected themes in mind.   It does not matter if you are a solo pastor with one lone musician, or the leader of a tribe of worship planners, the process is similar – pray through the themes together far enough in advance to allow all participants to bring their best efforts to the worship experience.

You may not realize that the Revised Common Lectionary http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/ has been carefully constructed to offer pastors several summer series options.  For example, this year’s readings after Pentecost offer a through-the-Bible type study of either Genesis/Exodus, or Paul’s letter to the Romans.  Since congregations often hear bits and snatches of Romans in our sermons, I am suggesting that you consider vacationing in Rome this year!

Look at the possibilities:

  • Proper 4:  Romans 1:16-17; 3:22b-28, (29-31) which begins with the familiar ‘for I am not ashamed of the gospel…’
  • Proper 5: Romans 4:13-25, which reminds us that we are saved by faith and not the Law…
  • Proper 6:  Romans 5:1-8, reminding us since we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ, we have peace with God…
  • Proper 7:  Romans 6:1-11, with Paul’s familiar ‘should we keep on sinning so that God can keep on forgiving us?’

This summer walk through the pivotal doctrines of Romans continues for 12 more weeks!  Pastors and planning teams could easily select any number of these for a preaching series or for a summer Bible study series that would deepen the discipleship of your local congregation and those who visit you during the summer.  And, for those who are interested, IWU’s Dr. Kena has written a 16-week series on Romans using the Revised Common Lectionary texts that may be accessed from http://www.gbod.org/lead-your-church/evangelistic-preaching-helps/resource/book-of-romans-sermon-starters.

So, where will you take your congregation during the lazy weeks of summer?  How about vacationing in Rome, with Paul?