Monday, January 3, 2011

More Junk Doesn’t Make It More Better

Here in the middle of the 52nd year of my life I am trying hard to simplify it; I’m trying very hard to decide what things are really important to me and to do those things and to let everything else go.

As a part of that project I am also trying to simplify my sermons.

Among the third-hand critiques of my sermons (only one person ever said it to my face and that one person did it in writing—but she did sign her name) that I have heard over the years is the observation (or accusation) that they can sometimes or often be too cerebral; it has been said to me by a cacophony of voices (at least three over my almost forty year career) that “Mike is a great teacher but he’s not a great preacher.”

For my part, I never claimed or even aspired to be great at teaching or preaching.

For what it’s worth, though, I do think that good preaching has a teaching element to it; proclamation includes instruction.

Still…I agree that at times my sermons get a little too complicated; I have too much “on the one hand, on the other hand” in them and I try sometimes to cover way too much territory…say, the entire biblical witness…in one sermon.

I have concluded that the best sermons have one point that is simple enough to be understood, that is discussed in enough depth to have integrity, and that is illustrated with one story that can be remembered.

As John Fogerty said about Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 1969 album Green River, “All this overproduction is funny to me. It doesn’t make it mo’ betta when you add more junk.”

I want to leave out the junk…

1 comment:

  1. Mike,
    I would never be critical of the cerebrality (my word) of your preaching. As a student of the Bible, I always got a lot from your preaching and even though I have heard a few comments of "well it was a little over my head" I always considered who said it and figured most anything beyond the most simple expression of the Gospel would be.
    I post this as a celebration with you of the discovery of the "one point" sermon. I was fortunate to do that many years ago and it was in part the result of my own aging and the attendant deterioration of memory. I have not used notes in a long time but as I got older, I found that I could no longer mentally organize the traditional three points and I think the Holy Spirit in directing me to the one pointer sort of left me to my own with that aspect. When I made the change He jumped right back in there.
    I concluded a long time ago that if I could impress one point into someones mind, I could make 104 such impressions per year. In the supply work I do, I still that use that.
    God Bless you my friend, you are a decicated servant of our Lord Jesus Christ and have and always will mean a lot to me.