If your ministry role requires you to speak, preach, or teach on a regular basis, you probably find yourself speaking on a wide variety of topics. Whether you’re a small group leader, a Bible study teacher, or a pastor who speaks in the same venue every week, it can be hard to know what to include in your message or lesson each week. After all, you have a limited amount of time to say what you have to say, and if you’re like me, you often prepare more content than you’re able to deliver. So what should you keep, and what should you leave out? I can’t help you with the specifics of your particular message for this coming weekend, but here are four things I believe should be a part of it:
Your message is nothing if it isn’t true. Many communicators can be engaging or captivating on the spot, but it takes hard work during your sermon or lesson prep to ensure that what you’re saying is true. You don’t need to be a full-fledged biblical scholar, but make sure you take the time to handle carefully issues such as context, word meanings, and historical background. There are times when we think a passage means one thing, but after some study we find that it actually means another thing.
If the lesson or message you’re communicating is worth anything, you should care about whether or not people hear it. Don’t be afraid to let your tone, body language, and facial expressions know that you believe that what you’re saying matters. Keep in mind, you don’t have to yell to convey passion. You just need to let a little bit of emotion shine through. If you care about what you’re saying, others will be more likely to listen.
You’re not perfect. You’re not sinless. And you sure don’t have following Jesus down to a T. So when you’re speaking on a tough topic or pushing your audience in a direction that’s not entirely comfortable for them, have some compassion. Share about some of your struggles, or let them know that you’re in the same boat as them. Remember, you’re a sinner, trying to point other sinners toward redemption.
Since you’ve spent what might be a considerable amount of your week preparing your lesson or message, it might be crystal clear to you what you’d like your audience to do next with the content you’re presenting. However, the application is not nearly as clear to everyone else who is hearing your message for the first time and who only have one shot to take it all in. Make it simple, make it clear, and don’t be afraid to overstate the obvious. And if you have to cut out some content to spend enough time explaining to your audience how to live out what they’re hearing, that’s okay. It’s better to have someone understand how to put a biblical principle into practice than know the Greek root of a word they won’t remember in a few days anyway.