I don’t normally use the movie analogy, but perhaps I could linger with it slightly longer. A good movie does not pad the main plot, nor does it make it impossibly dense. In fact, every good movie can be boiled down to something more precise than a ten-minute plot. It will have one main idea. And that idea is driven home by the plot and every detail throughout.
I actually watched a movie in the cinema this week (I can’t remember the last time I did that!) One crystal clear main idea, effectively communicated with every detail included to support it.
Robinson uses the analogy of the arrow and the target – the big idea and the sermon purpose. I like that. I add to that the strategy of the preacher. How is the main idea to be delivered? Will it be up-front and repeated throughout? Will it be built toward and revealed strategically? There are several approaches.
However the bigger issue is not how it will be delivered, but whether it will be the control mechanism for the whole message.
If the biblical text determines the main idea, and if the main idea is the gatekeeper for every detail of the message, then the message should not be padded, nor dense.
It will not be a padded sermon because every element will be there on purpose. The explanations will be there to help communicate the main idea. The proofs will be there to reinforce and support the main idea. The applications will be there to drive home the main idea. There won’t be padding because padding makes no sense in a message designed to communicate a main idea.
And it will not be a dense sermon because over packing makes no sense when the goal is the effective applied communication of the main idea. Over packing only makes sense if the goal is something else. If we want to show off, we may over pack. If we want to communicate multiple ideas, we will over pack. But if our desire is to see the main idea do its job, then we won’t want anything to get in the way of that.