As you plan your message you have some critical strategy decisions to make. Let’s consider a couple of them:
- Where will you make the relevance of the message show?
- Where will you reveal the complete idea of the message?
The answer to the first one should be fairly simple. My suggestion is to demonstrate relevance at every opportunity. Don’t assume people will listen to 90% of a message before hearing some sense of relevance in the form of application. You can demonstrate relevance in your introduction, in the wording of your main points, in your “illustrations” (illustrate application when you can), in your transitions, etc.
The answer to the second question is more complex. Will you reveal the main idea early in the message? This approach, known as a deductive sermon, has some definite advantages. It tends to be strong on clarity, it can be strong in respect to simplicity, and it also allows for re-accessibility (i.e. when someone has to go out to the nursery for some reason, they can re-enter the message at the next transition point).
But there are negatives to consider too – the deductive sermon will tend to be predictable and reject-able. People may fill in the rest of the message as soon as they hear the idea and they might not like what they anticipate is coming.
Another option is to plan an inductive sermon, which is where the question being answered is given at the start, but the idea is not completed until later in the message. The impact of a well-worked inductive sermon can be immense and long-lasting. Furthermore it tends to be less offensive at the start if people are not going to agree with the substance of the message.
However, it is difficult to maintain tension for the amount of time necessary. If listeners have to check out (or if you lose them and they mentally check out), it can be much harder to re-enter the listening experience. Worst of all, if you promise well, but under-deliver, then the whole experience can be very negative.
As you plan the strategy for your message you will need to take into account the text you are preaching, your strengths as a preacher, and who the listeners are going to be. Pray about it and make a plan – a meandering message lacking in strategy will tend to be the worst of all worlds!