A group of friends arrived back at the hotel where we were staying after visiting a famous church that morning. We asked them, what was the big idea? Their response? He didn’t have a big idea, he didn’t a little idea, he seemed to have no idea! Oops. What are the characteristics of an effective and powerful main idea for message?
1. It will be an accurate synopsis of this text. Looking at the passage, this stated idea gets a firm nod of recognition. Or to put it another way: if just the idea were stated, then someone who knows their Bible well would be likely to pinpoint the passage from the idea alone.
2. It will be consistent with the Scriptures as a whole. You may be preaching a single passage, but you are preaching from an open Bible. The idea should not be contradictory to the rest of Scripture. If it is, you need to keep working on understanding your specific passage.
3. It will be true to life. There should be a deep sense of resonance in you as a preacher while you prepare the message. It should ring true to those listening. This isn’t trite, or simplistic, or out of touch, but profoundly true. Good ideas stir people passionately, trite ideas just get a roll of the eyes.
4. It will be relevant to life. You may be able to state a profound theological truth effectively, but if it isn’t stated relevantly, then you aren’t really preaching the Word. God’s Word is relevant to life. Make sure your main idea is too.
5. It will be pregnant with meaning and implications. After stating your main idea, the follow up sentence shouldn’t be, “well, that’s about it, really.” There should be plenty that flows out of it. It is expansive. It is rich. It needs to be savoured. It has to be pondered. It begs development.
6. It will be precise. This brings us back to number one, but with a nuance. Not only must it be accurate to the text you are preaching – that text distilled into a single sentence. It also needs to be precisely phrased. No ambiguity (unless that is both an effective and accurate summary!)
7. It will probably not be perfect. Just to add a slight caveat…most of the time you may only feel you have a decent idea, rather than a stunning one. Accurate, clear, just decent ideas preached from God’s Word would bring significant health and growth compared to the standard fare in most churches today. We can’t knock it out of the park every time we preach. But decent ideas will transform lives.