As teachers of the Bible we should be obsessed with clarity. We need to be clear in teaching God’s word in order for people to understand it. As preachers, it is tempting to fall in love with big words or fancy illustrations, but we need to be willing to forsake all of that in the name of clarity.
I believe that the apostle Paul was obsessed with clarity. We see this in Colossians 4. In this passage, Paul is asking for prayer as he preaches the Gospel.
Colossians 4:4 Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.
Paul prays for many opportunities to share the Gospel, and that he would have clarity in proclaiming God’s truth. Our ambition needs to be the same as Paul. We must strive for clarity.
In order to gain clarity in your teaching, try these two techniques.
1) Explain your sermon to kids.
I think that one of the best ways to know if you have clarity or not is to practice your message before kids.
If you have little kids at home go over your sermon with them. If you don’t, go to one of the Sunday School classes in your church, and teach them your message before you preach it.
Don’t go over the whole message with them, but touch on the main points and be sure they understand the big idea of the sermon.
I know that I have successfully explained my sermon to my kids if they can repeat the message back to me.
In case you think I’m a genius, I took this idea from John Newton. He wrote the song Amazing Grace, and was an influential preacher in England. Newton spent many hours teaching the children at this church. He learned that the best way to teach the bankers and businessmen in his city was to teach them the very same way he taught the children.
I have discovered the same thing. If my kids can understand the message I am teaching, adults can understand it too. And I know that I understand the message too.
2) Condense your sermon into one sentence.
I find it is extremely helpful to condense a sermon into one sentence. I usually can’t do this until I have done all of my studying, preparation, and note-taking for a message. But when I am at that point of sermon preparation, I like to step back and ask, “What am I asking people to do?” And that’s where I get my one sentence.
My one sentence usually includes the truth from God’s word that I am teaching and a general type of application. For example, my one sentence for a recent sermon was, “We need to recognize our sins and turn to God in repentance.”
I make sure that I memorize this sentence, and repeat it to myself over and over. I recite it as I drive to church and have it in my mind as I am getting ready to go on stage to teach.
There are many other things you can do to gain clarity in your preaching, but I have found these two techniques invaluable.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- Why is clarity important in preaching?
- What are some of the consequences of being unclear in our preaching?
- Listen to a sermon (preached by someone other than you) and summarize the sermon in one sentence.
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.