I was in a conversation with a friend the other day and his question prompted a response that I heard previously from Haddon Robinson. Interestingly, I don’t remember Haddon overtly teaching this concept, but it came out several times in responses to questions he was asked. Perhaps these three principles (from Aristotle, I believe), are too obvious to state. Let me state them anyway:
A message needs unity – that is, a message should be about one thing. Not three things, or numerous things, but one thing. A sense of unity is important. If it’s missing then the listeners will supply an imposed unity (often in the form of only remembering your most poignant or amusing illustration . . . which can be frustrating when you are later met with, “Hi! You’re the preacher who preached the message about the child lost in the funfair!”, when actually you were preaching about salvation but didn’t make that clear by presenting a united message!)
A message needs to be in order – Often a message that makes total sense in the order of 1, 2, 3, 4, simply does not communicate when it is structured 1, 3, 4, 2. Or even worse: 1, 3, part of 4, part of 2, rest of 4, etc. The speaker should think through the order of the message and make sure it makes sense.
A message needs a sense of progress – It needs to be going somewhere. Without progress the message is about as enjoyable as treading water, in a confined space, with limited air (perhaps it’s only me that feels claustrophobic in a too slow message?) The preacher needs to give a sense of going somewhere so that the journey through the message can be more satisfying than enduring the ticking of the clock.
Unity, order and progress. Basics. Obvious ones, perhaps, but probably worth stating to ourselves now and then!