Paul wrote an encouraging letter to the church in Thessalonica praising them for their zeal and work in the Lord that encouraged him when he heard of it. In 1 Thessalonians, we observe the interrelationship between the Thessalonians and their teacher Paul.
Cycle of Example
Paul told the Corinthians to “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Paul lived a holy and righteous life in the presence of the Thessalonians and exhorted them to live righteously (2:9-12). He commended the Thessalonians for following his example and the example of Christ (1:6). As a result, the Thessalonians became an example to the believers in Macedonia and Achaia (1:7). In fact, their example became so widespread that Paul learned of it from others and it encouraged him (v. 8).
Cycle of Words
The gospel came in words and the power of the Holy Spirit (1:5) and they received it as the word of God (2:13). The word of God changed their focus and manner of life (1:9) and gave them hope (1:10). Not content with their spiritual gain, they sounded the word in the regions of Macedonia and Achaia (1:8). Paul received word of their living by the word and spreading the word to others.
Cycle of Suffering
Paul and his companions were treated shamefully at Philippi and suffered much when they taught the Thessalonians as well (2:1-2; Acts 16 and 17). Despite the conflict, Paul shared the gospel with them with great tenderness and affection, giving themselves completely to the effort (2:7-8). The Thessalonians obeyed the gospel and they also suffered as Paul did (2:14-15) for the sake of the gospel.
The close and loving relationship between Paul and the Thessalonians is one that every teacher should desire with their students. To have them not only hear the message but to allow it to change their lives, and create a zeal to carry the message to others despite the opposition is something every teacher would like to see. In this letter, Paul describes his approach to teaching the Thessalonians.
Effective Teaching Principles
Paul described the principles he and his companions embraced when they taught these believers whose response to the gospel had a continuing positive effect in the kingdom. They are principles we should emulate as well.
Boldness in the middle of conflict – 2:1-3
Taught only a pure doctrine – 2:13
Pure motives – 2:3-5
Sense of duty – 2:4
Concerned with God’s approval – 2:4
Selfless (not teaching for pride, greed, or power) – 2:5
Gentleness – 2:7
Intense effort – 2:9
Exhortation to holiness – 2:11-12
Continue to teach/not abandon them – 3:1-3, 11-13; 4:1
God’s people are thankful children and this is expressed in the song of thanksgiving sung when the Ark of the Covenant was brought to the tabernacle in the City of David as recorded in 1 Chronicles 16. The song opens with praise and thanksgiving for the great works God has performed for His people throughout time.
Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the LORD by Asaph and his brothers. Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered, O offspring of Israel his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones! (1 Chronicles 16:7-13 ESV)
Blessings on Israel
Israel of old could recount many blessings from the formation of their nation, deliverance from the bondage of Egypt to inherit the Promised Land, a wonderful law, and God’s abiding care. To give God thanks for these works is to remember the great things He did for them. They were to tell the great deeds of God to their children. As the song suggests, they should share the deeds of God with one another. Deuteronomy 3:24 observed that there is no being like God who can do great and mighty acts.
Blessings on the Church
Paul recounts the greatness of God in Ephesians 1:15-23 exhibited through Jesus Christ for the world and, especially, His people. Like old Israel, Christians can recount the great works of God from the formation of the church, deliverance from the bondage of sin to “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled that does not fade away reserved in heaven for you.” God has defeated our greatest enemy and will give us victory over death. He has taught us how to live through the gospel. God’s children should tell of these wondrous works to one another for edification and non-Christians for evangelism.
Take time to read this very short Psalm of thanksgiving for the greatness of God: Psalm 111
Meditate on the great blessings you have received and offer prayers of thanksgiving to God for His great works.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul taught the people to “pray without ceasing.” What does this mean? To pray without ceasing is to pray every day and many times a day. If you have a best friend, you want to talk with them many times during the day. God wants us to talk with Him many times during the day as well.
These prayers do not have to be long. We may pause to pray for a minute or two but it is precious time spent with God. We can share with God the good and bad things that are happening that day and ask for His help. He always listens to His children.
Make prayer your daily habit. You can find many things to talk with Him about if you just take the time. But you may ask, “What should I pray for?” The Bible gives us that answer.
Good Health for You and Others
When you pray, it is good to pray that you, your loved ones, and other faithful people will be in good health. In 3 John 2, John said that he prayed that Gaius would be in good health. We certainly do not want the people we love to suffer because of illness; however, there are other reasons to pray for someone’s health.
If a person is healthy they can do some things in service to Christ much better. When I am sick it is hard to prepare lessons and a sore throat makes it almost impossible to preach. We pray for the good health of those who work in the church so that they can continue in their service to God.
Pray also for your own good health and, whether you are sick or healthy, do the best you can do in service to God.
When God established the church he also gave the elders the responsibility to oversee, or rule, over the church. The elders are like shepherds who take care of sheep; the elders help feed us spiritually by making sure the teachers and preachers are teaching the truth. They make sure that your Bible classes are planned well and that the teachers are presenting lessons that will help you grow in your Bible knowledge.
They also help people in the church who are having problems by talking with them and giving them advice from the Bible. They must be wise about how to handle problems and using the Bible to help people know what they are supposed to do.
Does your church have elders? Do you know who they are? If not, ask your parents to tell you who they are. Pray for them and their important work in the church. Thank them for their important work as well.
Preachers and Teachers
As a preacher, I am so glad to hear when people pray for me as I am ready to preach. I want to make sure that I do not teach false things and that I teach the good things well. When people pray for me, I know that they want God to help me do what is right.
When you pray, be sure to pray for your Bible class teachers and your preacher. Both spend a lot of time during the week preparing classes and sermons to help you grow because they love the Lord and they love you and want you to go to heaven.
God warned teachers that they would be judged even harder by God because they might lead people away from Him if they teach false things, James 3:1 Pray that they may always speak the truth. Pray that they may be able to teach their lessons in a way that others can easily understand the important message of God.
Thank God for such men and women who are willing to spend time preparing lessons to teach you what is right. (Don’t forget to thank your teachers personally!)
When you pray, be sure to pray for your parents. They will appreciate you asking God to help them. As a parent I want my children to pray for me to be in good health. I want them to pray for me to do well in my work and that we will have the things that we need, such as food and clothes.
I also want my children to pray for me to be a good father and for my wife to be a good mother. We have never been parents before so we want God’s help. We want our children to pray that we will be wise in our decisions and to forgive us when we make wrong decisions. I want my children to pray that I will be a good example to them.
I also want my children to pray that I will give them my attention and love; that when I punish them I will be fair and understanding. Be sure to pray for your parents. Do not forget to pray for them every day.
If you listen to the news or study current events in school, you know that there is trouble with different nations in the world. The government has to protect us from terrorists as well as protect many of our rights. Government leaders have many great responsibilities and the Bible tells us to pray for them, 1 Timothy 2:2.
We should pray that they make decisions that allow us to live as Christians without persecution from the government or any other person. We should also pray for the leaders of the world governments that they would allow their people to worship God freely; not all people enjoy our freedom to worship God as He commanded.
We should also pray that God will give them wisdom in their many difficult decisions. We should pray that they will decide the things that will bring peace, not war. If we have to go to war, we pray that the war will end quickly with few deaths. We should pray for them to make decisions that will benefit all people and allow them to live right.
James 1:5 encourages his readers to pray to God for wisdom: If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. Godly wisdom is one of the most important things that we can have. Godly wisdom helps us make good decisions and avoid things that we should not do.
We get knowledge by studying God’s word. Wisdom is the ability to use what we have learned from God’s word. Study for knowledge; pray and learn from godly people to receive wisdom.
Pay attention to what your teachers, the preacher, and your parents try to teach you from God’s word. Use what you have learned to make good decisions and avoid things that displease God and will do you harm. Pray for wisdom and trust God’s promise to give it to you.
Wisdom When Making Decisions
Every day each of us has to make good choices. Friends at school, in our neighborhoods, and even friends from church ask us to do things and to go places. We must make good decisions about what is right to do and what we should avoid. We should also pray for the courage to explain to others why they should not do things that are wrong. You can teach them this way.
You become stronger when you make good choices. In Hebrews 5:14, the writer compares it to exercising. When you exercise your muscles you become stronger. When you exercise good decision making, it is easier to choose the good in the future.
Even your parents have to make good choices. Pray for them to make good choices as they try to raise you. They are probably praying to God for the same thing. You will pray for good choices all of your life.
Help During Temptation
In the model prayer of Matthew 6:13, Jesus told His followers to pray that they would not be led into temptation and that, when tempted, they would be delivered.
Through bad choices, some people find themselves tempted when, if they had made better decisions, would not have been tempted. If you hang around people who do things that you know are not right, you will likely find yourself in a situation that you could have avoided. We should pray to God for wise judgment to avoid temptation.
It is not always possible to avoid temptation so we should also pray that God would help us in temptation. In 1 Corinthians 10:13, God promised that with each temptation He will provide a way to escape evil. We must pray to God for the wisdom to see the way of escape and the courage to take it. Since Satan is our enemy, we need to pray for God’s help.
Opportunities to Teach Others
In John 8, Jesus used the example of harvesters in a field to tell His apostles to pray for teachers to lead people to Him. The lost need to hear the gospel. You may not feel like you could teach someone but you can lead that person to a teacher or invite them to Bible class or worship services where they can hear God’s word taught.
Pray for chances and the courage to invite friends to Bible classes, gospel meetings, Vacation Bible School, and worship services. By leading someone to Jesus you can change their lives for the good and they can have eternal life with God.
Which of your friends or family members needs to hear the gospel? Pray for them and try to find opportunities to teach them or lead them to a teacher.
We should develop a habit of thanking God for our food. Paul taught that we should give thanks to God for the food we eat, 1 Timothy 4:3-5. Jesus taught His disciples to thank God for their daily bread, Matthew 6:11.
One day, a father, who did not serve God, was fed up with his wife and children giving thanks to God for the food. He told them, “I worked to earn the money to pay for that food. God did not give it to you, I did. You should be praying to me for the food.”
The wise wife quietly reminded her husband that it was by God’s hand that he had his job and the health to do it. God also gave the rain, the sunshine, the seed, and allowed the plants to grow and bear fruit. God provided the nourishment for the animals and the lives of the animals themselves. Last of all, He provided the rain that, in a pure form, filled their water glasses.
The father saw her wisdom and humbly thanked God for the food He had given.
Give Thanks to God
Consider some of the the different things for which we should pray already discussed. When we pray, we must also give God thanks for the prayers He has answered and that He listens to us. Though some adults may ignore you when they are busy or at other times, God always has time for us. He wants us to visit Him in prayer and open our hearts to Him. However, we should not just spend our time asking things from Him. We would not like it if people only talked to us when they wanted something we had.
Luke 17:11-19 records the story of ten men with a terrible, incurable disease called leprosy. These people had to stay away from all healthy people. They cried to Jesus, asking Him to heal them. He told them to go to the priest who could determine if they were healthy. As they went, they were healed, but only one returned to thank Jesus for what He did.
Let us remember to give thanks for all that God does for us and the care that we enjoy. Let us not be unthankful.
Pray Through The Name of Jesus
“…giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ ” Ephesians 5:20
Do you ever wonder why we often say, “in Jesus’ name” at the ending of prayers (or something similar)? This verse helps us understand why. We approach our Father through Jesus. He is an intercessor (pronounced: enter-says-her). An intercessor is one who asks something on behalf of another person. When we pray to the Father, Jesus is on our side.
We must give thanks for all things because all things come from God. Every blessing comes from God (James 1:17).
If you spent a lot of money or a lot of time on a gift for someone and they acted as if they did not care you would feel hurt, perhaps even angry. We are ungrateful if we do not give thanks for all things that God has given.
We give thanks for the good things we enjoy for we are very blessed. We should even give thanks for some bad things. If we are tempted but we do not sin, we become stronger. When we are sick, we appreciate our health. When we have bad days, we appreciate the good days. In all things, we must give thanks to God.
We can only approach the Father through Jesus; therefore, we must do all things in His name.
Some Christians always seem to desire something different in the worship or work of the church. They think that change will reinvigorate them or make things better. They seek new cars, houses, jobs, and possessions to fix their boredom and discontent. They feel their marriage is dead so they seek illicit affairs or divorce to find a new spouse. Yet change eventually settles into a new reality and the old boredom and discontent returns because they treated the symptoms and not the root problem.
People do not seek to change things that are effective and fulfilling. It is no surprise that some people feel that the worship is dead, the church is dead, and that we are going through the motions, boring each other to death, with some self-satisfaction that we have done God’s will. When someone reads a popular religious book extolling the value of a new way of operating the church, worshiping, doing God’s work, or introducing practices that were considered long forgotten, it is no surprise when they feel that they have found the magic cure.
If some would look into their own heart they might see if that they are lacking in love, commitment, or total dedication to God in their lives and are looking for a “worship experience” or something in the church—the externals—to fill what should be filled from within. Some are very shallow in their faith, it is a part of their life and not life itself, so they are very sensitive to worship or the church not satisfying their needs and become restless. Some are looking for an experience instead of building a complete life in God.
Some reading the section above may nod approvingly and with disdain upon such brethren. Do not be quick to judge the dissatisfied and look down on their instability because it may be that we have settled for less than offering the best to God in worship and in the work of the church. Some people are quite content to the point of stagnation:
Why do we need to learn new songs? Aren’t the old ones good enough?
Why did that brother spend so much time talking before the Lord’s Supper? Doesn’t he know we just need to pray and pass the plates?
Why did the song leader sing more than five songs? Doesn’t he know we have lunch waiting?
Why are the elders and preachers urging us to practice hospitality, doing things with one another, and serving those in need?
Some are satisfied with continual dry worship and inactivity as a church—it fits their life. Like the person who seeks innovations in worship and the work of the church, if some who settle for less than the best would look into their own heart they might see if that they are lacking in love, commitment, or total dedication to God in their lives and, instead of looking for a “worship experience,” they want to fulfill their duty or commitment and get on with their lives.
Like the innovator, some are very shallow in their faith, it is a part of their life and not life itself, so they are content to come to services, mumble their songs, respectfully bow in prayer, look attentive to most of the sermon (with a couple of naps), and feel that they have been faithful in their duty and return to a life that mostly revolves around their needs, not God’s work.
This was a problem in the Old Testament. Consider the cries of the shepherd prophet Amos: Amos 4:4-5:
4“Come to Bethel, and transgress;
to Gilgal, and multiply transgression;
bring your sacrifices every morning,
your tithes every three days;
5 offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving of that which is leavened,
and proclaim freewill offerings, publish them;
for so you love to do, O people of Israel!”
declares the Lord God.
The people were coming to the places of worship but multiplied transgressions for their own satisfaction, not to God’s glory. They enjoyed it but God did not.
21“I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
God hated (twice emphasized) their feasts and would not accept them just because they were offered. He was not satisfied with motions or emotion. He wanted the selfless worship of holy people.
Malachi 1:6-10: If you follow the link to the passage in Malachi you will find a condemnation of the people who did not offer the best. God wished that they would lock the doors and not waste their time and His.
The easy life is dangerous!
Amos 6:3-7: Follow this link to Amos 6. The children of God were in luxurious ease, amusing themselves with idle music and feeding their faces when work needed to be done. If Amos were to come among brethren today would he sound a similar alarm? Stretching out on our couches and easy chairs, eating the bounty of our pantry and refrigerator, watching television, playing on the Internet, investing countless hours in our hobbies and earthly activities until the calendar and the clock tell us, it is the appointed time to serve God. We search the house and car for the Bible and class book, go to the building and find our regular seat, go through the motions of worship, and return to our regularly scheduled program.
I’m not saying that is true of you, but you had better make sure that it is not true of you and I have to make sure it is not true of me because, to paraphrase the words of God to Amos and Malachi, He would rather the doors of the church be locked so that we would not waste our time or His in vain worship that He hates and noisy songs that do not honor Him.
We do not need innovations, we need to do what God commands. Our worship must be done decently and in order, 1 Corinthians 14:40. Our worship must be offered with zeal and enthusiasm. We must live holy and dedicated lives devoted to serving God and not our own needs and comforts.
We must live and worship in the spirit of the New Testament Christians
Acts 2:42-47 – Devoted to God’s word, devoted to supporting one another spiritually and materially, Sacrificed possessions to take care of each other, Daily worship, Thankful to God
Acts 4:32-34 – United in heart and soul, Forsook a claim on material possessions preferring to meet the needs of their brethren. They enthusiastically preached the gospel even when persecuted.
Acts 5:42, 6:7 – They enthusiastically taught the gospel.
Acts 8:4 – those scattered from the persecution preached.
Acts 11:19-25 – Passion for the gospel led to growth.
Acts 13:2-3 – Sent preachers into foreign places.
Acts 17:6 – their teaching turned the world upside down.
They helped brethren in need in faraway places as churches andindividuals
Acts 11:27-30 – Judean famine
2 Corinthians 8:1-5 – Giving of themselves then of their wealth
They rejected the immorality of the world, repented of their wickedness, and tried to live pure and holy lives, Titus 2:11-14. They encouraged one another to live holy lives. They were united. They enthusiastically preached the gospel to others and sent messengers throughout the world. They willingly sacrificed what they had to relieve the need and suffering of their brethren. They did all of this without formal programs or man-made organizations: They fervently loved God and one another and it was expressed in their teaching and practice.
The brethren continued these practices as recorded by early writings. Let us reflect on their example coupled with what we have already read from the scriptures. Consider this testimony of the early church from Aristides – delivered the Apology around the year 125, when Hadrian visited Athens
Apology SectionXV. Wherefore they do not commit adultery nor fornication, nor bear false witness, nor embezzle what is held in pledge, nor covet what is not theirs. They honour father and mother, and show kindness to those near to them; and whenever they are judges, they judge uprightly. They do not worship idols (made) in the image of man; and whatsoever they would not that others should do unto them, they do not to others; and of the food which is consecrated to idols they do not eat, for they are pure. And their oppressors they appease (lit: comfort) and make them their friends; they do good to their enemies; and their women, O King, are pure as virgins, and their daughters are modest; and their men keep themselves from every unlawful union and from all uncleanness, in the hope of a recompense to come in the other world. Further, if one or other of them have bondmen and bondwomen or children, through love towards them they persuade them to become Christians, and when they have done so, they call them brethren without distinction. They do not worship strange gods, and they go their way in all modesty and cheerfulness. Falsehood is not found among them; and they love one another, and from widows they do not turn away their esteem; and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly. And he, who has, gives to him who has not, without boasting. And when they see a stranger, they take him in to their homes and rejoice over him as a very brother; for they do not call them brethren after the flesh, but brethren after the spirit and in God. And whenever one of their poor passes from the world, each one of them according to his ability gives heed to him and carefully sees to his burial. And if they hear that one of their number is imprisoned or afflicted on account of the name of their Messiah, all of them anxiously minister to his necessity, and if it is possible to redeem him they set him free. And if there is among them any that is poor and needy, and if they have no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply to the needy their lack of food.; and they escort his body as if he were setting out from one place to another near. And when a child has been born to one of them, they give thanks to God; and if moreover it happen to die in childhood, they give thanks to God the more, as for one who has passed through the world without sins. And further if they see that any one of them dies in his ungodliness or in his sins, for him they grieve bitterly, and sorrow as for one who goes to meet his doom.
I have been both the bored and the stagnant in my life and don’t want to go there again. If we are living and worshiping as we ought, we will not become bored and discontent and become susceptible to any innovation or cure that is offered.
I have been asked several times in the past few weeks for advice on how to organize one’s work for preaching by people who were starting out as preachers seeking advice from other experienced preachers on how they do the work. The following are some observations I shared with these men based on my work and myexperience. I emphasize this because each preacher probably has an approach and method that works perfectly for them that would not be as effective for another preacher. Although the work of the preacher is broad, this article focuses on how I approach sermon planning and development.
Every three to six months I review the list of lessons that I preached in the last 3 or 6 months and identify the topics/subject areas I need to preach on in the next 3-6 months (and even some topics to consider in the next review period that won’t fit into the next 3-6 months). As best as I can I set up a calendar with the topics that I want to preach on which dates. I do not make this so concrete that I cannot intersperse lessons that need to be preached on needs that arise during this period. Flexibility is extremely important.
This approach helps me balance the lessons that are more in-depth studies with ones that are more exhortation and not as mentally taxing. I would also look for other areas to keep balanced such as lessons focused on Old and New Testament topics. I keep a list of sermons I’ve preached by date and place and keep each year in a separate tab on a Google Docs spreadsheet (I share this with the man who posts the sermons online so he knows what title to use for the lesson). This helps me make sure that I cover a wide range of congregational learning needs, planning my personal study applicable to the sermons, avoiding the mind blank question, “What am I going to preach on Sunday?”, and prevent unnecessary redundancy in the topics on which I preached.
When preaching full-time, I would usually schedule Friday and Saturday off (assuming no emergencies) but often needs arose to which I would be called. However, having this in mind saved me from having to work late on Saturday trying to get something ready for Sunday–a problem compounded if there was also an emergency on Saturday to which I would be called. I would start my sermon prep on Monday morning. My goal was to have both sermons and the Bible classes completed by Wednesday. Those three days would be focused on the study for the lessons, writing them out, and preparing the visuals. Some of the more in-depth lessons might be developed over the course of multiple weeks but that need would be identified in the planning process. This allowed me to have Thursday for in-depth study on a topic of personal interest that I wasn’t necessarily preaching or teaching on at the time. (of course, there were hospital visits, visits with members, studies with non-Christians and new converts, etc. interspersed during this time).
The best thing I did when preaching full-time was getting a calendar broken down in 15 minute increments (appointment calendar). I wrote down everything I did in the time slots (what I studied, who I called, which sermon/class I worked on, reading, visits, etc.). At the end of the week I calculated to make sure that I had at least 40 hours of legitimate preaching work (generally more than 40 hours but if a “4o hour week” is the minimum in the work world, how much more should one be working hard in his labor for the Lord’s kingdom). More importantly, as I reviewed each week I could identify ways to make my work more efficient or identify time intensive activities that might be better assigned to or shared with someone else. For example, there was a lot of time spent on folding bulletins–so I changed to a format that did not require folding or making sure everything was centered for the fold. There was also work that I was doing that made more sense for one of the deacons or interested members to do to allow me to focus more on the study and give that members something to do that contributed to the growth of the congregation. In fact, I found members who were eager to help with correspondence course mailings, etc.
Since, based on planning, I know what I want to preach, I rough out some ideas that I want to cover–not an outline, just some main points and questions I want to answer from my study. The greatest focus of the preparation is immersing myself in the texts related to the lesson to first learn the message of the scriptures. Through the study, other points usually reveal themselves and occasionally eliminate some of the main points I was going to emphasize. This study is the bulk of the work as it should be. I then sketch a Mind Map to develop the order of the lesson (Mind Maps are great tools for planning and organizing thoughts). Working from the Mind Map I write the outline of the lesson. I then go back through and see what areas need illustration or further explanation.
After writing the outline, I do a sweep to see what I need to trim from the lesson. There is an important concept from the writing world: kill your darlings. Sometimes you have a point that you really like or an illustration that seems so good but, in all honesty, it detracts from the lesson or goes on a tangent. Have courage and remove it. Like I note in the next paragraph, you can make use of it in other ways but don’t fall in love with a point or illustration and let the rest of the lesson suffer as a result.
Don’t Do Anything Once
The most practical piece of advice I give to other preachers is don’t do anything once. Use the fruit of intensive study to develop a sermon (or three), write bulletin articles using the points used in the sermon(s) or information that you could not include in the sermon (the darlings you killed) for immediate publishing or to keep in a collection for when time is limited, and copy the bulletin articles as blog posts to share with a broader audience. Often you can use material developed through a deep study to write class material or handouts you can give to people for questions related to that topic. Both the blog articles and handouts allow you to answer common questions by giving prepared information instead of recreating the wheel when questions come up. Finally, keep your notes, articles, handouts, class material, sermon outlines, source material, and other information in a place where you can pull it for refresher study or as the building blocks for future projects. I have a premium subscription to Evernote (Microsoft OneNote can work as well) so I can store PDF and other file formats and access them from my laptop, other computers via the web, and my smartphone. It is a great tool for free and even better for the $45/year premium upgrade. Efficiency allows you to spend more time in the study and service that is important for the kingdom of God.
Difference in Sunday AM and PM Lessons?
Whether one approaches the type of sermon preached on Sunday morning and afternoon depends on the audience. The places I preached full-time, we usually had more visitors on Sunday morning than in the evening (we only have Sun morning services were I preach now) so I might not preach such in-depth lessons. Sunday morning was usually first principles, basics of Christian living, etc. Please consider that probably 95% of the average worship attendance is comprised of those who are already Christians so preaching a lot of lessons on how to become a Christian is, in my opinion, wasted teaching opportunities. Focus on how to live the Christian life, the virtue and blessings of such a life, scriptural answers to life challenges, holiness, and answering specific false teaching and leave most of the “how to become a Christian” to personal studies with the non-Christians and studies with the young people. On Sunday evenings I might do a more in-depth studies on something like millennialism, Calvinism, etc. and training lessons such as evangelism and service.
Preaching a Series
I heard advice long ago to not announce you are preaching a series. If the series is not going well, you can quietly abandon it if you have not announced it. Announce it, and you feel obligated to it even if it doesn’t seem to be working. I think either approach you described could work. The advantage of spending each lesson on it (or Sun morning and evening) is that the linking info from other lessons is fresher. If the future lessons depends much on the prior lesson I would absolutely keep them close. If the lessons tend to stand on their own, the one or two each month would probably work fine.
There are some good resources for preaching available. If I had to recommend three they would be:
1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. Spend much time in these epistles for the instruction of the wise inspired apostle Paul to these preachers. They are a great source of encouragement, instruction, and exhortation.
Common Sense Preachingby Dee Bowman is an excellent book written by an experienced preacher of the word.
Letters to YoungPreachers by various authors. If this book had only the letter by Sewell Hall it would be worth the price of the book. However, there are letters from many wise preachers on the work of preaching including teaching Bible classes and presenting sermons. I can’t recommend this too highly.
Most of all, approach all parts of planning, study, and preaching with liberal time in prayer to God. Never forget, your service is to His glory, not yours.