Dense Packing Doesn’t Prosper

It is commonly referred to as a mistake new preachers make, but we can all fall into the trap.  A sermon will not work well if it is too overwhelming.

Let’s say you study the passage for several hours.  You discover interesting bits of information regarding background, structure, syntax, grammar, word meanings, not to mention parallel passages, cross-references, informing theology and later use of this text in the canon.  You discover fascinating insights through archaelogical reference tools, an interesting textual critical debate concerning one word that may or may not be original, and an interpretational debate that has gone back and forth since Calvin’s commentary was published.  Plus you stumbled across some useful anecdotes, an amusing story or three in a database of illustrations and you heard a great opening remark that you’d love to fit in, somehow.  Several hours of preparation will yield a significant resource pool of information.

But then you have to pack up what you intend to carry into the pulpit.  You only have a limited time.  Listeners only have a limited capacity to take information onboard.  After all your work, you have enough to load up three large suitcases and a trunk, plus a carry-on bag and a personal item.  But you can only pack a small suitcase and take it with you into the sermon time.  Prayerfully select.  Leave some of your work neatly folded for a future journey.  Graciously drop some of it in the waste.  Pack only that which will help you achieve your message purpose and drive home your message idea with application for their lives.  And don’t mention all that you couldn’t bring with you.

When you travel into the pulpit, just take one small case.  Don’t overstuff it either, tempting as that may be.  In the preaching journey, dense packing doesn’t prosper.

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