One thing is certain in preaching. If your message idea is not clear, then listeners will synthesize and selectively remember. They will subconsciously choose their own highlight, the point that stood out to them, or the illustration they enjoyed the most. It is far better to do the work yourself and then present a clear, well-articulated main idea in the message. You start with the passage idea, remove any historically specific references (like Paul, Timothy, Roman Jail, etc.), take into account your sermon purpose and then look to phrase the message idea in a way that is memorable and relevant to your listeners. It doesn’t have to be an all-star big idea every time (it won’t be), but it is worth putting extra effort in on this one critical sentence. Once you have it, it will be boss of the message shape and the details – the next two stages. It may seem like a lot of work, but working on the idea is well worth the time and effort you put in.
Just recently we had three posts on ideas that stick – if you didn’t see them, check them out here 1, 2 and 3.