Charley Reeb, a Florida pastor known as a gifted preacher, says that it’s often easiest for listeners to stay focused when a sermon is organized around one point. But that point must be both clear and compelling.
Once, I had just preached what I thought was a pretty good sermon. It was chock full of points, quotes, and anecdotes. As I was shaking hands with people leaving worship, a wise lady approached me with a slight grin on her face. She shook my hand and quipped, “Nice sermon series.” Those three words turned out to be one of the greatest lessons I ever learned about preaching: less is more.
When I began my ministry, my problem was that my sermons had too many ideas and illustrations. They lacked focus and development. I mistakenly thought that to keep people interested in my sermons I had to fill them with as many clever points, insights, and stories as possible. Those poor people!
Unless you have a compelling and clear point the method will not work for you. If you cannot express why your text is important to you, your sermon will never get off the ground.
The truth is that listening is hard work, which is why so few people do it. The average listener is not going to work very hard listening to a sermon, especially one that is confusing and lacks focus. The burden is on you to keep them engaged. If they have difficulty tracking your sermon they will stop listening to you and may never come back to your church.
For razor sharp focus, prepare your sermon around one compelling and clear point. I am not suggesting that having a sermon with one point is the only way to maintain focus. There are many wonderful preachers who preach very effective sermons with more than one point. I am suggesting that it is much easier for listeners to stay focused on a sermon with one point.
Benefits of a one-point sermon
- You have time and room to develop your point. Since listeners only need to keep track of one thing, they can really absorb your message. There is nothing more frustrating than when a preacher touches on many key ideas or points but can’t develop any of them because there are too many points and not enough time. Real opportunities for transformation are missed.
- Your sermon will have drive and direction. To be compelled to pay attention, listeners need to feel like a sermon is going somewhere. Remember that sermons must “begin, travel, and arrive.” Preparing a sermon around one point assures drive and direction because you have a singular target. Listening to a sermon with many points can feel like hitting every red light on the way to Disney World or, worse, getting lost on the way. Now that’s frustrating!
- You only have one point to remember. Having only one point makes your sermon much easier for you and your listeners to remember.
- You save time by putting aside other points for future sermons! Were you planning on preaching a sermon with three points this Sunday? Wait a second! Why not use each of those points for a three-week series? Bam! You now have three weeks of sermons planned. You’re welcome.
One clear compelling point
Before you can effectively apply this exciting method, there is a crucial thing you must do: Come up with your point! Unless you have a compelling and clear point the method will not work for you. If you cannot express why your text is important to you, your sermon will never get off the ground. However, when you are able to share why your text is important your point will be compelling. When your point is compelling you will be inspired to preach with passion and conviction. Then your sermon will soar!
Sometimes your point will be so compelling that it will be crystal clear. Other times you will have a general idea for a point that needs more focus. This is when you must do a little work on your idea to make it plain and accessible for your listeners. When you express your point, your listeners should recognize its meaning immediately. What has God laid on your heart to say? Express it in one clear and complete sentence.
There is an added benefit to having one compelling and clear point for all of your sermons. At the end of each quarter and or year you can publish a list of all your sermon points with their related scripture texts. Put them in the church newsletter and on the website. Post them on Facebook and Twitter. People will love it, and your sermon points will find a second life!