There are times when we can select a single passage to preach, a stand-alone sermon. Some people only ever preach this way. Others rarely preach this way. So how do we select the passage? Well, it’s a good idea to pick a passage you want to study and preach. It’s a good idea to pick a passage that appears straightforward in terms of relevance and application (all Scripture is useful, but let’s face it, some take much more work to “land” on this side of the gap!) Here are a couple of other things to bear in mind:
The time required for preparation should not be underestimated – If the time available is likely to be limited, then it is usually worth building on a foundation already laid, i.e. preach from a book you’ve studied well and fairly recently. Before jumping into a Bible book you haven’t studied much, make sure you have the time to study the whole, as well as the particular part. Make sure there is time to get the resources you might need (commentaries, for example). Make sure there is time to go through that process of wrestling with the details in order to arrive at the idea of the text.
The macro-context should not be underestimated – In order for your “chunk” of text to make sense, you will usually need to give some explanation of the broader context. Without the benefit of a series in that book, it may take longer to set the scene than you thought. Often a brief contextual set-up is sufficient, but not always. Some texts may be better left to a series so that the reinforcing of key themes can occur “naturally.”
The time required for explanation should not be underestimated – For instance, telling a biblical story can take a lot of effort and sometimes it can take a lot of time. Be aware of how long you have to preach and how long it will take to tell the story, or explain the content sufficiently.
There are plenty of other factors to take into account when selecting a passage for a stand-alone sermon, but these three shouldn’t be ignored.