Preachers, have you ever noticed that some of your most well received messages are the ones for which you have studied the least? Don’t worry, I’m not advocating a lack of study. However, I think it is important to understand why this phenomenon occurs.
When an idea first enters your mind, it is simple to comprehend. Just consider the experience of reading Scripture and having a new insight, which revolutionizes your thinking. All of a sudden, you see everything through the lens of your new insight. At this stage, you don’t have a lot of information, which allows you to have amazing clarity. Let’s call this stage one.
Stage one preaching tends to flow brilliantly from your mouth because the insight is clear—there is no “extra information” to trip over in your presentation.
Of course, the beauty of stage one preaching is also the fault: lack of information. This leaves stage one preaching open to misleading statements, unbalanced presentation of Scripture and misapplication of the text.
Perhaps you have preached a stage one sermon and received wonderful compliments. Then, the next time you have an opportunity to preach to a different audience, you decide to share the same message. Excited for the opportunity to share a message that has been previously well received, you decide to study more and make it even better.
In the midst of your study, you chase a few rabbits, delve into original languages and become interested in the context of the text. Those are all strong marks of good sermon preparation.
The only problem is that your sermon notes are not as clear as before. They have become cluttered with insights that are great by themselves, yet seem unconnected on paper. Even worse, they are cluttering your mind. This is stage two.
You stand up to preach believing this version of the message will be more powerful than before because you have more ammunition. The only problem is that your shooting spree has no focus. In the end, everyone in the audience is a casualty.
You walk away wondering what happened. Why, if the first version of the sermon was so well received, wouldn’t a more researched version be even more effective? The answer is simple: The more information you have, the more challenging clarity becomes. That’s why I call stage two the “chaos stage.” Unfortunately, I have plenty of experience with stage two preaching.