Even the best message preparation often overlooks the critical issue of momentum. So messages will often follow one of these patterns:
1. “U” … Start with a bang – drag on through the bulk – pick up for a strong finish.
2. “/” … Start slow – gradually increase in energy and get going.
3. “\” … Start strong – lose dynamic after the introduction, or first point, and drag to the end.
Each of these patterns will undermine the effectiveness of the preaching event. Equally, while some preachers seem content to flatline “_” (i.e. never generate energy or momentum), it is not usually possible for listeners to cope with the opposite (i.e. constant high energy and fast pace).
If you have felt like your preaching tends toward one of these patterns, or if others have hinted at it. What can you do?
1. Try to work out where the momentum was missing. Was it an unclear transition? Was it a sequence of explanatory points? Was it at the point you lost confidence in your content? Was it just through a lethargic unplanned introduction? Was it at a difficult juncture in the text? If you can figure out where momentum was missing in previous messages, this will help you identify where the same could happen in future messages.
2. Listen to yourself practice. Sometimes you can get the sense of momentum struggles in a run through of the message, but not always. It may be worth recording a run through and listening to it . . . but obviously that requires you to be on top of your preparation.
3. Evaluate the sermon map. Most of us tend to use an outline rather than an actual sermon map, but we can still evaluate it as a map. As well as evaluating it for location of illustrations (the normal approach, which actually can generate predictability as people see every illustration coming), also look for points of relevance, and consider the terrain . . . will this bit be hard to traverse for the listener? Marking your outline may allow you to energise a potentially monotonous section with illustration, review & preview, interlude, or even by overviewing rather than detailing a segment.
4. Weigh the sermon on the scales. Many of us tend toward simply making too many points, giving too much explanation, trying to give too much and the sermon is simply too heavy. What would be lost if you chose to lighten the content slightly and create some breathing space? If the main point of the text is not lost, then are we choosing to keep content because we want to demonstrate our insight, our study, our knowledge?
Energy, pace, vocal variation, movement, progress, laughter, relevance . . . the complex factors of message momentum.