Preachers want their people to love the Word of God. They also want to grow as preachers and keep their preaching calendar fresh. Preaching a whole book of the Bible in one sermon is one way to accomplish all three of these objectives and might be worth adding to your preaching repertoire. Here are a few reasons:
1. Preaching book-overview sermons encourages Bible engagement in the congregation.
All preachers should want their preaching to engender responses like, “I can read this for myself!” The more exposure your people have to different parts of Scripture, the better. Working in a book-overview sermon allows you to mix in other parts of Scripture that you wouldn’t normally cover.
2. Preaching book-overview sermons adds more variety in the preaching schedule.
If you have ever gotten bogged down by preaching consecutively through entire books, you might consider taking a break from your current series and preaching an overview of another book as a way to mix things up.
3. Preaching book-overview sermons helps show different contours of the book that are sometimes lost in a normal exposition.
Approaching the Bible with a wider lens reveals a book’s big ideas, turning points, and other vital details to the book’s message. More atomistic preaching risks losing the forest for the trees—or even the leaves on the trees. Teaching the Bible atomistically can lead our people to read the Bible atomistically. Zooming out to see the whole book reminds listeners that God moved authors to write whole books with coherent messages, not loosely arranged collections of verses.
4. Preaching book-overview sermons grows the preacher.
Pastor Paul Alexander commented, “I myself learn so much as a preacher from preparing overview sermons. I learn both content of the book, and a different method of study, and my learning in those ways helps my congregation learn in those ways too.”
5. Preaching book-overview sermons helps you see how the book testifies to Christ in its macro themes and structure.
All of Scripture testifies to Christ. Focusing on entire books allows preachers to easily explain how higher-level ideas in books point us to Christ. The book of Judges’ steady drumbeat of “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25) points to Christ, the Promised King from the tribe of Judah. Joseph’s words near the end of Genesis, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20), summarize not only a major theme of the book but a major theme of the Bible—one ultimately fulfilled when sinful man’s crucifixion of the Christ opens the door for salvation.
Responding to Potential Pushback
Preaching book-overview messages isn’t for the faint of heart, as two points of pushback testify to. Careful thought should help a preacher overcome pushback.
Pushback #1: But . . . you won’t cover everything a book has to offer in one sermon!
Isn’t that the case with every sermon text anyway? Scripture has an unlimited depth of riches no matter what size text you choose to preach. Occasionally sprinkling in book-overview sermons will help make more parts of the Bible accessible for our people so they can discover its riches for themselves.
Pushback #2: But . . . it takes so much time!
Yes, it takes time and is hard work. Consider Pastor Paul Alexander’s recommendation:
“The main downside is that if you’ve never done it before, you can make it harder work than it is (both to prepare for it and for your congregation to listen to it!) by choosing a long book rather than a short one. So start small and work your way up to the bigger books if you’re inexperienced. Start with a short NT epistle like Philemon or Jude, or 3 John, then a book like Philippians, then try a short OT prophet like Obadiah, or Haggai, then graduate to Ruth, etc. . . . Major prophets, Gospels, and the Psalms should be among the last overviews preachers do.”
If you’ve never heard an overview sermon, here are a few examples from pastors Paul Alexander of Grace Covenant Church in Elgin, Illinois, and Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC:
- Beginner: 3 John (Paul Alexander), Haggai (Mark Dever)
- Intermediate: Esther and Leviticus (Paul Alexander), 1 Corinthians (Mark Dever)
- Advanced: Job (Paul Alexander), Isaiah (Mark Dever)
 Quote taken from a personal email with Alexander on May 30, 2018.
 Mark Dever published his overview sermons as The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made and The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept. You can listen to all the sermons here.