2. Expand your research and thinking.
I keep an Evernote file for sermon ideas and bottom line ideas. And when I get to the series development or talk development stage, I create a file that I can easily come back to on any device I’m on with random thoughts, scripture, articles, pictures, videos or anything else that I can use to expand my thinking and research on the subject.
I try to collect far more ideas and angles than I can possibly use.
3. Let it simmer.
This is key. During last year’s Preaching Rocket conference, I heard Louie Giglio say that writing a sermon or talk is like having a baby.
It starts with conception (an idea) and then moves through gestation, delivery and presentation. He said the problem with most preachers is they sit down at the keyboard on Friday or Saturday and say, “I need to have a baby.”
Great sermons don’t work that way. Neither does pregnancy. I agree with Louie.
If you’re a last minute writer, change immediately by starting a week out, or two weeks out. Then move to collecting ideas a few months out. There are some series I’ve done that I’ve been thinking about for two to three years.
4. Make your first attempt.
At some point you have to ship. So, usually a month before the series is ‘due,’ I take my first crack at bottom lines.
Don’t get discouraged. The first attempts are often terrible. That’s OK.
Just go back to step three and let it simmer some more, and then go back the next week and have another go at it. Personally, I can’t write the outline for the talk until I have the bottom line, so I often start with the bottom line.
5. CREAM It.
Rework your bottom line using the tools in the CREAM acrostic (another tool I picked up from Preaching Rocket).
C—CONTRAST Combine two contrasting ideas—the past and the future, the light and the dark, the rich and the poor, truth and lies, laughter and sorrow. In a recent series at Connexus where I profiled Haman (a politician featured in the book of Esther), I used contrast to come up with this bottom line: “A life devoted to self ultimately leaves you alone.”
R—RHYME This is one of the oldest memory tricks in the book, which is why you remember one of Benjamin Franklins quotes: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” The bottom line for Andy Stanley’s Comparison Trap series was simply “There’s no win in comparison.” Sticky.
E—ECHO Repeating a word or phrase is a powerful way to help people remember. A few years ago when I preached on burnout, I used this bottom line: “If you don’t take the Sabbath, the Sabbath will take you.” (That’s a paraphrase of 2 Chronicles 36 by the way. Great bottom lines help people understand scriptural principles better, which is kind of the goal, isn’t it?)