I’ve been writing about struggling to simplify messages. There are numerous potential issues, but I want to keep this post really simple. I think that when all is said and done, there are two key things to keep in mind:
1. Big idea preaching promotes unity, order and progress. The big idea school of preaching is not about having a pithy grabber at some point in the message. It is about recognizing the inherent unity in a unit of Scripture and letting that be the boss of the message. That means that you will let it determine whether a detail makes it into the message. And it will determine the best order of the details included. And it will determine the best way to convey forward movement in the flow of the message. The main idea is like the arrow, the sermon purpose is like the target, and the shape of the message is like the strategy for accurately planting that arrow deep in its intended target.
S0 an illustration may be a good one, but if it doesn’t help communicate the main idea, bye for now. An exegetical insight may be impressive, powerful, moving, or whatever, but if it doesn’t help in the strategy for delivering the main idea, save for another time. Every detail, every statement, every explanation, every proof, every application, every word in the message has to be there because the main idea is helped by its presence. Like a commanding team captain, the main idea determines who gets to play on a given Sunday and who doesn’t.
2. Pray about it. Simplifying your message in order to communicate more effectively is not a selfish pursuit. You aren’t trying to be clear for your sake. It is for the sake of the listeners. It is that they might be gripped by the passage, transformed by the truth and marked by an encounter with the God who reveals himself in the Word. Consequently, don’t be bashful about praying for your next message, and for your preaching in general, to become more consistently clear. Ask for wisdom in terms of what to cut out. Ask for a mentor. Ask for understanding. Ask for your preaching to be clear because your passion is for God’s Word to be heard and followed and felt and applied.