4. What’s my one sentence?
In seminary, we called this the 3 a.m. test. It’s when someone were to wake you up at 3 a.m. and ask, “What’s your sermon in one sentence?”
If you’re not sure, try putting your sermon into a single question and answer. For example: “What does God say about my anger?” or “How do I know God loves me?”
This is the hardest part for me. I always overwrite. I try to cram all my findings and statistics and stories into one sermon.
But over time, I’ve learned that this can kill the momentum of the message. While I still tend to fatten a sermon, I’ve been learning to cut anything that does not support the main point of the message.
There is always next week. I don’t have to say everything on one Sunday.
I also place all the deleted parts of a sermon in an “edit” file to save for later. As they say in the writer’s world: Be willing to kill your darlings. Make every word count.
6. Do I love my people?
As I prepare a message, I pray over the people. I think of their faces, their struggles, hopes, ambitions, hurts and dreams. I ask God for a heart of grace and patience for them.
If I don’t love my people, Apostle Paul says nothing I do matters anyway (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). There are plenty of preachers who deliver dynamic truth without loving a single person in the congregation.
Instead of looking for a tweetable one-liner, pray for a heart of love toward your people. I pray for God to soften my heart so I remember who I’m talking to, and to remember they are like me: a sinner in need of mercy, thirsty for the Word.