Sometimes we’ll have a meal that consists of leftovers reheated. Sometimes this tastes better than the first time it was served. Anyway, I was looking back at some of the earliest posts on this site and decided to re-heat one that I’ve often thought back on, or even referred to: The Preacher’s Cutting Room
Watching a movie on VHS was simple. Watch it, rewind it, return it. Now we use DVDs – watch it, then watch as many hours of extra bonus material as you can tolerate! You can enjoy “The Making of . . .” and “Meet the cast . . .” and “Humorous gaffes.” Then there is also “Deleted scenes.”
A scene might take days to film, more days to edit, cost thousands of dollars, and then be mercilessly cut from the final edition of the film. One such scene was in the movie Gladiator. As Maximus waited under the Coliseum, he looked out through a barred window to see Christians praying as the lions approached. A powerful scene, very moving. It was cut.
The director’s commentary on the scene explained the situation. It did not help the progress of the plot. It was potentially overwhelming, too weighty.
After many hours of preparing a sermon, get out the scissors. It isn’t easy, but there may be an element of explanation, an illustration, or a story that does not help the message, or may overwhelm it. If it would not be missed, or if its absence would not result in reduced understanding of the message . . . cut it. Perhaps when your sermon is on a DVD you can make it available, but for now we are still preaching in VHS.
I suppose I could try to bring the imagery up-to-date with some reference to Blu-Ray preaching (sharper and clearer?) or 3-D preaching (content doesn’t matter as long as there’s some special effects 🙂 Actually preachers do fall into the latter, don’t we? Remember the early days of overhead projectors with acetates, or of powerpoint? Suddenly the technology was exciting and some settled for sermons that simply used it for the sake of it. Over time, hopefully, preachers learn that tools are servants, but the message still has to be genuinely focused, contentful, well-honed. I suspect preaching with twitter feedback, and other such contemporary ideas, may become part of preaching in some circles, but will be completely ignored in others. Either way, the preacher will always have a cutting room.
Any time we study God’s Word and prayerfully consider preaching it to others, we will probably end up blessed with more content than is really needed for that specific message from that passage to those people on that occasion. Don’t dismiss the cuttings, some may be very useful, perhaps reheated in another message, but don’t overpack the sermon either . . . let it be as focused as it should be.