By J. Kent Edwards
If your goal is to preach deeply, serve lean meat; don’t try and communicate everything you know about your passage and its idea. That would be like me taking everything on my Thanksgiving kitchen counter, dumping it into a single pot, and calling it dinner.
The consequence of dumping everything into a single sermon is that you end up with a message—like the aforementioned meal in a pot—that is at best unappetizing and at worst unpalatable. If you put too much in, you will end up creating a mess. Your sermon will be running in every direction and going nowhere.
Go lean. Be ruthlessly selective about what you include in your message. The best meals include only the nest of ingredients. Say what needs to be said and no more.
The length of time you preach will vary depending upon the idea you are communicating and the passage it comes from. Some extended narrative passages, for example, cannot be contained in a 20-minute sermon. There is just too much material to cover! But the temptation is for preachers to take more time than is needed.
Don’t pad. Don’t inflate your content in a vain attempt to appear spiritual. That is like the butcher injecting water into a chicken so that the “heavier” bird can be sold for more money—and is just as tasteless. Take the time you need to communicate the deep truth of your passage and not a minute more.
Have you ever watched the “bonus features” at the end of a DVD movie you just watched? They often include deleted scenes. These are scenes that seemed to make sense when they were shooting the movie but never made it into the final version of the movie. As painful as it must have been, the director left them on the cutting room floor. What impresses me as I watch these deleted movie scenes is, in retrospect, how much stronger the movie was without these scenes. With the deleted scenes gone, the movie was tighter and better focused. Sometimes less is more.
Take a tip from Hollywood. After your sermon is finished, go through it like a director going through a movie in the unforgiving atmosphere of the editing room. What scenes should be removed? Which content muddies the focus? Which ones are “rabbit trails”?
God is eternal, but our sermons don’t need to be. Deep sermons are not necessarily longer sermons—just spiritually significant.
Cut out the fat. Good sermons are lean.