How a tweet can make you a better preacher by Sunday

I’m going to give you a tip today that, if applied immediately, will make you a better preacher by Sunday. There are a lot of things you can do to become a better speaker but central to all the tricks of the trade is the power of a single tweet. Let me explain.

Are you doing this?

There’s a discipline that I want to believe most pastors do, but if the ministerial seminar I was a part of back in March was any indication, it’s probably not that common.

The seminar was geared toward helping pastors hone their preaching skills. During the seminar the leader broke us up into groups of about 4 and assigned each group a different passage from the Gospels. Among the various exercises we had to do was this one:

“Tell me, in one brief, pregnant statement, what that passage is about.”

Now that sounds easy, but it turned out to be quite the challenge. Because as you probably know if you’ve preached for any length of time, there are often several different angles any particular passage can be preached from. The challenge here was to find the one, big, main point that not only powerfully communicates the message in a nutshell, but also would become the only point (says the instructor) that we should want to make when preaching from it.

For preachers, this is difficult. Very difficult.

You and I both know how easy it is to want to say everything there is to say about any particular passage when preaching. How often have you heard a preacher say (or maybe you’ve said it yourself): “Sorry for the rabbit trail. Let’s get back on track.”

Rabbit trails happen when the preacher loses focus. And when the preacher is out of focus, the message is blurry from the audience’s perspective. Or as the axiom goes:

A mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pew.

“What was today’s sermon about?” “…”

That’s the dreaded question I was often asked growing up by someone who couldn’t make it to church. What made the question so dreaded was that there were often so many things talked about during the sermon that I walked away with nothing. Not that I wasn’t inspired or moved by the sermon. Not that it wasn’t a good sermon to listen to. It’s just that nothing stuck. I’d maybe explain what passage the sermon was based on and fumble through the various things that the pastor said. But I’d be lost for words when trying to succinctly answer the question.

Dan Pink, a famous speechwriter and author, said this:

Before a presentation I ask myself, ‘What’s the one thing I want people to take away?’ After someone listens to your presentation the real test is when they leave and someone asks, ‘What did that person talk about?’ I want to be good enough that they have a clear answer to that question.

If you want your congregation to remember and absorb your message, they need to be able to walk away with your one big idea. If you have a three-point sermon, that’s fine. But those points should only go to serve the one big point your sermon is really all about. And the simple reason is God made people for that one big point. You’ll lose them once you start hopping down rabbit trails from the pulpit.

It’s science. It’s how God made us

For reasons I don’t understand some Christians I talk to have an aversion to psychology and “cognitive research.” But the way I see it, scientists who study how the human mind works are simply uncovering some details about how God wired us. And humans are wired for the big picture.

Carmine Gallo explains in his book Talk Like Ted:

Cognitive research has demonstrated that our brains need to see the big picture before details. John Medina once explained it to me this way: “Carmine, when primitive man ran into a tiger, he did not ask, ‘How many teeth does the tiger have?’ He asked, ‘Will it eat me?'” Your audience needs to see the big picture before learning the details. If you can’t explain your product or idea in 140 characters, keep working at it until you can. (p.132)

That’s the power of a Tweet

And this is where Twitter comes in.

Twitter limits you to only 140 characters. Using Twitter to pump out powerful, succinct, pregnant messages will help hone the gift God has placed in your life. While crafting your sermon you should ask yourself: What is the one thing I want my audience to walk away with? Then make sure it easily fits within a Twitter post. Carmine says “If you can’t explain your big idea in 140 characters or less, keep working on your message.”

He goes on to highlight two reasons why you need to turn your message into 140 character tweet:

1. It’s a great discipline, forcing you to identify and clarify the one key message you want your audience to remember.

2. it makes it easier for your audience to process the content.

Become a better preacher before Sunday

So here’s my challenge to you: Before you work on your next sermon, or at least before you finalize it, ask yourself: “What is the one big idea I want my audience to walk away with?” Then craft that one big, powerful and pregnant idea into a 140 character tweet.

If you can do that, you’ll be a better preacher by Sunday.

Question: What is your one big idea for this Sunday? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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