Wednesday, August 14, 2013

"The Storm Before the Calm" Review (Part 2)

Something else I love about The Storm Before the Calm: Talbot is a master of the one-point sermon.

Back in the good ol' days when I first entered the ministry, we usually went for three-point sermons: "Claim His Promise, Trust His Provision, Enjoy His Presence."

Then in the 90's, fill-in-the-blank printed outlines were all the rage. These messages covered multiple points, and were usually pretty long.

Today we live in a time of information overload, and preachers have to work harder to get their message heard amidst all the noise. On top of that, too many of us modern-day Christians are high on content and low on obedience. We don't need to hear a sermon with three points that we never put into practice. We don't need to fill out an outline with tons of information that we then forget. What we need is to "be doers of the Word and not hearers only" (James 1:22).

The one-point sermon is designed to drill a single Biblical point into your mind so that you not only remember it but act on it. The one point arises from the text. It's expressed in a catchy, memorable sentence that gets repeated throughout the sermon. The simplicity and creativity of the one point cuts through the noise of information overload. And the fact that it sticks with you throughout the week means you're much more likely to put it into practice.

I try to use this method myself, although I don't always pull it off. Sometimes I just have too much stuff that I want to say. Other times my creative juices aren't flowing enough for me to come up with a catchy statement.

But when I've pulled it off -- WOW. It really works.

Like the time I preached on Philippians 1, where Paul looks at his rotten situation (in prison, people out to get him, etc.) through the lens of the Gospel. He sees the Gospel continuing to go forth, and he rejoices. The one point I drew from that text: "The lens you choose determines your view." 

You wouldn't believe the number of people who came up to me weeks later and told me how that point stuck with them and helped them see daily trials in a different light.

Or the time I preached on 1 Corinthians 1, where Paul talks about the importance of healthy relationships in the church, and I said, "Spiritual maturity is not how much you know, it's how well you love." (Actually, I think I stole that one from Andy Stanley. I'm pretty sure I heard it somewhere before I said it.)

Again -- people quoted that back to me for several weeks. Small group leaders were inspired to take it to their small groups and talk about the quality of their relationships. It stuck. It led to doing and not just hearing.

There was the time we were in a through-the-Bible series and I had to preach on the rebuilding of the temple after the exile in Babylon. How do you connect that to the real-life issues of people today? Well, as I studied the text, I noticed that the people weren't happy with the re-built temple because it didn't look like the old one. But what they didn't know was that God had much, much greater things in store. So the one point was: "The new thing God's doing is better than the old thing you're missing." 

Several people let me know later that the message was very helpful to them in times of transition (job loss or transfer, moving to a new city, kids leaving the nest, etc.)

And then there was this past Sunday, when I felt led to preach a sermon on commitment from Luke 9, where Jesus talks about the cost of following him.  Everybody who saw me before the sermon was aghast because I was wearing a coat and tie (we dress casual at Covenant). During the sermon I explained that we at Covenant need to stop mistaking casual dress for casual commitment. Then the one point: "You don't have to dress up--but you do have to STEP up!" 

I've been hearing comments about that sermon for three days now.

So, back to The Storm Before the Calm -- every one of these messages is a one-point sermon. And the catchy, memorable sentences are amazing. For the reader, that means you'll remember these messages for a long time to come. And for preachers like me, it's a great lesson in how to preach sermons that make a difference in the 21st century.

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