I don’t think I’m a great preacher. But I love what God has called me to do. Learning more from His Word, and sharing what I’ve learned is exciting to me! I keep a white binder in my office. It contains a the outlines of the majority of the Sunday sermons I’ve preached since I started preaching in 2002. Sometimes it can be fun to look through (Okay, as I wrote that, it occurred to me that my definition of “fun” is different from most people’s). Sometimes, it’s embarrassing to look at and think, “Did I really say that?”
But, I’ve noticed a pattern developing.
I have fewer points. I study more, but have fewer points. My first sermon, at age 16, was well over 70 minutes long and contained about 7 points. My first several messages had seven or eight points each, not counting the sub-points. That’s too many.
As I’ve learned more over the years, from friends who are far better preachers than I am, I have started trying to keep it simple. I’m not trying to keep things short for so-called adults who can’t maintain focus for more than 30 minutes, as some bloggers have suggested. I try to keep it simple so that the points don’t get muddled.
If I preach a 7 or 8 point message, not even I remember everything I said when I leave. Instead I study harder. I figure out the historical context; I read and reread (and re-reread) the passage until I understand the point; delve into the Greek and Hebrew for more detail; chase down answers to any questions that have popped into my mind; and consult a couple of trusted commentaries to see if I missed anything important.
Then, knowing the purpose of the text, I try to take from the text three or four main points that I can share with the church that will help them understand more about God, the Bible, and how to live as Christian believers. And I try to tie these few points back to the general theme of the text and message.
I’m still not a great preacher, but it seems that some people are really getting, remembering, and acting on the points of my sermons, maybe for the first time in my ministry. I’ll take three points put to use over eight that are just “interesting” any day.