57 - The Concise Single Sentence Summary
Manage episode 358716170 series 3321737
Peter Mead, the director of Cor Deo, a ministry training program in Chippenham, England, asks, “What is the difference between one sentence and half an hour?” This is a critical question in sermon preparation and preaching.
We work hard to understand a biblical passage. We look at the context, wrestle with the flow of thought, analyze the words, the context, the historical background, and all the other details in the text, and do our best to determine what the biblical author was trying to communicate. Our end goal in studying the passage should be to summarize the passage with a single succinct sentence, which I call the proposition.
However, we don’t just say a sentence and sit down when we preach, do we? So, what fills up the rest of the preaching time? Let’s begin by assuming that the single sentence accurately summarizes the passage. Then, as we prepare the message (the second half of the preparation process), we have two options:
Option 1. We carefully plan how to land that main idea in the hearts of our listeners. What form of introduction best draws people into the message, making them thirsty for the passage and eager to hear the main idea? When should we present the main idea in the message? Should we repeatedly drive it home using the movements of the message to repeat the presentation of the idea? Or should we create greater anticipation so that once it is stated, it will hit deeper? In other words, will the main idea be like a series of well-placed sniper shots, or will it hit home like a bunker-busting missile? How will we explain the text, prove the points, and apply the truth in ways that reinforce the main idea of the message? In every aspect of content creation, structural formation, and delivery nuance, we seek to make that main idea so clear, transformative, evident from the text, and applicational that we will genuinely have preached the text before we sit down.
Option 2. We fill the half hour with material that will drown out the main idea. This is where we instead choose to fill the time, not to support the main idea, but at the cost of the main idea. We provide a series of informational segments, background descriptions, vaguely connected cross-references, somewhat amusing anecdotes, semi-connected quotes, random highlights from our exegesis, favorite soapbox excursions, and illustrations that may or may not be well-suited to the moment. While most of these could be helpful, if we are not careful, they can put down a smokescreen to keep the main idea from being understood. Or we might hide the main idea beneath three or four points that loosely tie to the text but do not hold together effectively. The listeners will have an array of mini messages to select as their favorite, but they will unlikely grasp the main idea.
While we may not consciousl
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