Something bad happens (enter death, illness, a villain, a problem).
There’s a struggle between good and evil.
A hero enters.
Hopefully, people live happily ever after.
If there’s no tension in a story, there’s no story.
So what’s the tension point in your message?
If you can find that, you’ve created a plot line the audience will follow and identify with. Because everyone has tension in their lives.
For my message, the focal point was that heaven is a beautiful place…beautiful beyond words. The tension points in the message became the fact that most of us don’t realize how beautiful it is, and that we experience both beauty and tragedy in this life. Once I picked up on those points, the message became both more relevant and interesting.
2. Identify, build and solve an actual problem
Most people showing up at your church, at your blog or who open the first pages of your book face problems they don’t know how to solve: marriage problems, money problems, hope problems, forgiveness problems.
When you identify a problem and lead people to a solution (or potential solution), your message immediately becomes relevant.
What I had to do in my message was identify a problem that most people would want to see solved.
In my message, I zone in on why people instinctively hate the idea that there’s a hell or separation in eternity, but I also explain how that resolves some of the tension people find impossible to resolve in their lives right now.
Ironically, your writer’s block problem often gets solved if you can identify and solve someone else’s problem.
3. Find the Why
You can find tension and find a problem to solve but still not have a fascinating message.
Because you haven’t yet identified why any of it matters.
In any kind of communication, the why is the most important question you can answer for someone.
Why establishes relevance. When you establish the why—a money problem suddenly matters to your listener; when you explain why forgiveness is an issue, or why the existence of hell or the beauty of heaven matter, interest in a subject piques.
The problem with far too many sermons and far too much Christian writing is that they focus on the What and the How and they completely miss the Why.
In this post, I outline the five questions I use to evaluate every message as I write it (I got them from Andy Stanley). My two most favorite questions are the questions of why the audience needs to know what they need to know and why they need to do what they need to do.
When you’re stuck, keep asking yourself, “Why does any of this matter?” When you can answer that, you’ve got an interesting message.
If you can’t answer why your message matters, your message won’t matter.