4. Look for surprises
Even in an age of declining biblical literacy, familiarity is a problem with preaching from the Bible.
It’s a problem because people assume they know what a text means. And even people with little Christian background assume they know what Christians would say about an issue.
Even as a preacher, you might read a text and miss the shock and surprise of the original text.
To get over this, I try to pretend I’m reading the text for the first time. My text this week was from Revelation 21-22. Here are some surprise angles that could make a sermon on Revelation 21:1-3 (and this just scratches the surface on three short verses):
John is in exile on the Island of Patmos and he sees this? Why? What would that have meant to him?
Wait…there’s a new earth, not just a new heaven? What????
And why a new heaven? What’s wrong with the old one?
Wait…heaven’s a city? What about the endless golf game in the sky that people imagine?
What’s this bride and groom language all about and why is it so intimate?
Hey, in Greek, the word for ‘dwell’ is ‘tabernacle’…does this go back to the Old Testament and John 1 and then the Holy Spirit dwelling in us (actually, yes it does) and what on earth does this mean?
See…that’s just three verses.
Approach the Bible as a stranger or a child and it pops to life.
5. Talk to
someone another writer about your problem
Honestly, when you go to a non-preacher or non-communicator for advice, their advice often isn’t that helpful.
Because writing problems are usually best understood by other writers.
So sure, you can ask questions of your neighbor or someone else who doesn’t write for a living.
But keep in mind that a quick consult with another writer or preacher can zero in on the problem faster than you might think.
6. Imagine you’re being pulled off the stage…
I don’t know how I developed this trick, but it’s tremendously helpful.
Years ago when I felt stuck in the writing process, I started imagining myself being pulled off the stage in the middle of my message (almost by a cane…like in the comics) and getting 30 seconds to shout out my last line before the message was over.
If I didn’t have anything to shout in that last line, I knew I hadn’t found the main point of my message.
If I could say it, I’d found the tension and the main point of my message.
Last week, the single line was, “You should have a better plan for eternity than you do for your next vacation.”
Try this exercise…it works.
7. Come back to it another day
If you find that you’re striking out, again and again, pack it in and come back to it fresh in the morning. I find so many breakthroughs happen this way.
Of course, that doesn’t work if you’re starting your message Saturday morning for Sunday delivery.
But if you work ahead like I do, time becomes your friend as much as deadlines do.
So work ahead. And come back to it fresh after a good night’s sleep.
I shared almost all of my communication shortcuts in this five-part series you can access on my blog for free, including a post on how to deliver a talk without using notes.
I’ve also gotten much better as a communicator not just by practice, but by training. Few resources have helped me as much in the last few years as Preaching Rocket (this is an affiliate link).
I’ve been through their entire coaching programming and it’s been fantastic for me both as a preacher and a conference speaker.
If you want to explore it for yourself, you can try Preaching Rocket for free for seven days.
In the meantime, what helps you overcome writer’s block and boring messages?