15 Ways to Improve Clarity

This week I’ve been writing about the doctrine of Biblical clarity – the fact that the Bible may be understood.  This is a cause for great rejoicing.  Imagine for a moment that the Bible was absolutely impregnable.  Anyway, one of the points I made the other day was that preachers are representing a God who made His book understandable, so we should model a passion for clarity in our communication.

Let’s have a rapid-fire list of factors that influence our clarity in preaching.  I’ll start, you finish:

1. Voice. If it isn’t loud enough, and distinct enough, it isn’t clear enough.

2. Vocab.  Don’t try to impress, try to communicate.  Jargon doesn’t help, good word choice does.

3. Preaching Text.  If you stay in your text as much as possible, it should be easier to follow.

4. Structure. A memorable outline remembers itself, there’s no need to be clever, be clear.

5. Main Idea. One controlling, dominant thought, distilled from the passage is critical for clarity.

6. Unity. Let every element of the message serve the main idea, nothing extraneous.

7. Order. Take the most straightforward path through the message, so others can follow.

8. Transitions. Slow down through the turns or you’ll lose the passengers.

9. Pace. Sometimes you really need to take the foot off the pedal to keep people with you.

10. Visual Consistency.  Keep your gestures and scene “locations” consistent to reinforce well.

11. Verbal Consistency.  Let key terms rain down through the message, don’t be a thesaurus. 

12. Restatement. Restate key sentences in different words, less patronising, but helps clarity.

13. Illustrative Relevance.  Be sure illustrative materials have clear connection to the message.

14. Flashback and Preview.  Whenever appropriate, review and preview at transitions.

15. Pray.  Pray for message clarity during preparation, God cares about this!

That’s a start, what would you add?

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6 thoughts on “15 Ways to Improve Clarity

  1. Number 1 is important. I don’t recall this ever happening in a Sunday morning preaching situation, but when a speaker says, “I don’t need the microphone, I’ll just talk loud,” I cringe. Rarely is someone really able to manage that in a way that’s better than just using the mic.

  2. After using an illustration, explain the meaning of it in terms of your big idea. At times I’ve put a lot of effort into an illustration, but perhaps not made it entirely clear how it applies to the topic. Just because it is related to the subject of the sermon, doesn’t mean you don’t need to show how it’s related.

  3. Great list. I’d add foreshadowing. If I am developing a theme, particularly with a Christological tie-in, I ‘ve found it helpful to begin to use some of the key words to build the construct earlier in the sermon.

  4. Look at the people’s reaction to your sermon. Do they look confused? Bored? Fidgety? Or are they sitting at the edge of their seats with mouths agape?

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