Don’t try to say too much

A minster once told me that, before preaching any passage, he thinks about how long the Bible is compared to how much longer he can expect to live and reminds himself that this is probably the last chance he will ever have to preach that particular passage to the congregation.

Since the man is a successful pastor I will have to assume that he is able to accomplish something close to this week after week. But for me, this would be a paralyzing nightmare.

There are very few passages in Scripture that–when thinking of how you could unpach their relations to other Scripture, and how differently you could apply it–you won’t be able to think of two or three different sermons you could easily preach from the text. If you try to pack it all into one sermons you are going to find it really hard to get anything ready by Sunday morning.

And frankly, it is completely self-defeating.  People only remember a small percentage of what they hear.  Furthermore, they usually remember what is repeated.  While you can show a bunch of complicated argumentation if you need to, you need to make sure it focuses on a few basic points (tell them what you’re going to say, say it, and then tell them what you said).  So in a way, you need things to be unified and kept simple.

You simply can’t say everything at once and you shouldn’t punish yourself by trying.

One thought on “Don’t try to say too much

  1. Aaron Cummings

    Seems to me that preaching should be more about getting people to think how about the Word of God in a certain way, or rather, how to understand the Word of God in a certain way. The Bible is supposed to shape us. It is how the Spirit broods over us (to borrow a phrase from Hopkins). The Spirit shapes us through the Word. The chief job of a teacher is to get the student to think about the Word and interpret in a certain way, in his way. “Have you noticed this about this text? Isn’t that interesting? Now, how could we apply that mode of thinking to other portions of Scripture?”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *