Determining HOW to Preach the Text: Intrigue (4 Suggestions)
I often joke that the 11th Commandment is “Thou Shall Not Bore.” It ought to be a rule of life, in other words, to NEVER – EVER be boring. Life is way too short to be a drag. Unfortunately, far too many people assume that far too many preachers are boring.
Let’s change that.
But let’s also be real. It can be hard. Especially if you preach to a majority of people who have spent much of their lives in a church. Explaining the Bible to people who have been taught the Bible most of their lives in a compelling way is a big-time challenge. Add to that the reality that you are charged to preach to them weekly – and you have your work doubly cut out for you. It’s one thing to create interest with a story, a thought, an anecdote they have never heard before. It’s another, however, when you have preached weekly with them for years.
It’s hard. But it is not an excuse. It only means the preacher has to work that much harder to prepare a message that causes intrigue. Let me give you four suggestions to help you prepare a message that is intriguing to your people every week.
First, start with an intriguing thought, quote, story, joke, etc. to springboard you AND the people into the heart of the message.
One of my seminary professors put it this way: “You have to buy the right to take them to the next level.” In other words, if you want them to go with you in the sermon, hook them at the beginning. Find SOMETHING that helps you move into the text. A picture. A commercial. A quote. A personal story. A news headline. Something funny. ANYTHING that piques their interest and keeps them “on the line” as you move into the message.
Second, if you use points, think about how they will sound to Joe Pewsitter.
Put yourself in the shoes of someone who will be listening to you. If your congregation is primarily “churched,” phrase a point in a way that causes them to lean in. Even if it is super obvious, work on phrasing so they want to hear what its about. If there are many “unchurched,” or millennial or Gen-Zers – think about how they might hear a point you want to make. Is it compelling? Is it understandable? Does it breed curiosity? Will the 23 year old stay with you? Will the 65 year old Sunday School teacher predict what you will say next? Will your point prevent MEGO (“My Eyes Glazing Over”)?
Third, be ruthless when considering flow.
How you transition from one idea to the next, from one thought to the next, from one point to the next is critical. Showing how ideas connect is important. Illustrating a point or inserting a “funny” or applying a truth helps guide the listener. If you give your people tons of information without bringing it to light in the here and now, you will lose them and lose them fast. Think about how you can keep a Google generation with you for an entire sermon.
Fourth, preach so they can take the guts of it and teach it to someone else.
Would those who heard the sermon be able to teach the sermon to a small group? Could the people who listened to your message take the points and apply it – not only to their lives – but to the lives of others? Could hearers take the guts of the sermon and disciple someone over coffee with what and how you communicated? The preacher should want their sermon to “live” after it is preached – seeking to make disciples who will, in turn, go and make disciples. As you prepare, think about how someone listening can take your message and teach it to someone during the week.
What are some ways YOU help keep your congregation intrigued throughout the sermon?