TYING THE MESSAGE TOGETHER FOR THE GREATEST IMPACT (WEEK 8)
“In addition to being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge; and he pondered, and searched out and arranged many proverbs. The Preacher sought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly. The words of wise are like goads, and masters of these collections are like driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd.” (Ecclesiastes 12:9-11 NASB)
A. Today, we are talking about the “C” in C.R.A.F.T (trim and tie it all together).
I kind of like to think of the title as “How do you nail it to the door of people’s heart” so that it has the biggest impact. I’m thinking of Luther nailing his 95-point thesis to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.
The above verses describe the preacher doing his homework so that what he says comes across as a “goad” or a “well-driven nail.” A goad is like an electric cattle prod. A well driven nail speaks of something that is driven in and becomes firmly embedded. We want to enable people to remember God’s truth and motivate them to get going for Jesus.
B. What I feel and want to communicate is that if you are someone who senses your call is to be a teacher of God’s Word, it is worthy of giving a lifetime of effort to grow and learn to get better at it. I want to challenge you: Whatever your gift, realize you have the calling and privilege to steward that gift by sharpening your skills to a master level. Don’t just be satisfied to be a teacher but make it your lifelong ambition to be a “master teacher.” Why be the best you and I can be? One simple reason: more people get saved, more marriages get put back together, more youth leave a life of delinquency and follow God, more Christians find their purpose and make their biggest difference for God.
I say this because to be your best is really hard, tedious, and always means pushing another step beyond your comfort zone. This is why Pablo Casals is a model for me. At 95 years old, he still practiced the cello 5 hours a day because he said, “I think I’m getting better.” An example: I realized that if I’m going to get better, I need to watch and evaluate my preaching. That is traumatic for me, but I have to be willing to remember, “It’s not about me!”
C. Today when it comes to “tying it all together” that means arranging it in the best words, in each of the buckets of an effective message and then practicing it so things like speed, cadence, volume, and hand gestures help the sermon and don’t hurt the sermon.
II. Let me start with the issues I mentioned that you will practice and evaluate in delivering the message (cadence, volume, body language…)
All of these are about creating FLOW and TIMING. Flow matters. Think of riding on a boat at a theme park where you want to enjoy the scenery. You won’t want to be on the ride if you feel like it’s going too slow or stuck. Nor will you enjoy it if it feels like roughwaters or you’re rushing towards Niagara Falls. Remember, just because people are sitting there doesn’t mean they haven’t left the boat.
When it comes to body language (putting your hands in your pocket, a nervous twitch…) realize that a key to excellence is removing distractions. Think of it as wanting to be in a joyful dance with the audience.
Cadence is all about timing. The difference between a homerun and a foul ball is timing. Preaching more than one service, I’m amazed at how a point in one service hits home and in another service the same point has people falling asleep. It was all about timing.
A UNIVERSITY STUDY Only 7% of a speaker’s impact is from CONTENT 38% from AUDIO qualities 55% of a speaker’s impact is visual
In other words, how you say it has in many cases more impact than what you say. (Thank God the Holy Spirit helps use us in spite of this).
Tone and movement are significant as well. Nobody wants to listen to anybody talk in a monotone for more than 30 seconds. Movement is a critical part of flow and indirectly says important things. People need a variety of moods in the flow; it can’t be all intensity or you stress people out. It can’t be all laid back or they fall asleep. The best tour rides are hills and valleys, pretty turns with fun surprises.
Experts say that TV has shortened attention spans, where people expect some kind of break every 10 minutes. Illustrations, visuals, standing, sitting, stepping close, walking around can all help create a flow. Sometimes the most forceful thing you can do is to have a long pause.
B. Other key parts of the connection process have to do with intentionally creating an atmosphere where people feel comfortable and close to you.
1. Remove barriers like big pulpits.
2. Find ways to create rapport. One of the most effective ways is to get people to talk back and talk to each other. Can you ask your neighbor…?
3. Don’t take yourself too seriously; laugh at yourself sometimes. Rapport is key to response!
C. Great communicators intentionally find ways to help people breathe. Humor is a great tool for that. Jesus used humor. “Strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.” Humor is a seasoning that makes a hard truth easier to swallow. The Bible says a “a cheerful heart is good medicine.” It has therapeutic value. It lightens the mood so people can let their defenses down and take in a hard truth they may ponder later. An example in trying to lighten the mood on a stewardship message:
Rick Warren told a story of this uppity fashion guy on a mountain road in a brand-new Mercedes who swerves to miss a truck and goes off a cliff. He jumps out of his new car just in time but severs his right arm. As he gets up, the truck driver stops, looks at him and says “Are you all right buddy?” The guy says, “My Mercedes, my Mercedes!” The truck driver says, “Are you nuts?” You lost your right arm!” The guy says, “Not my Rolex too!”
The best kind of humor is from real life scenarios, and self-deprecating humor. (Laynie, too proud to ask for directions).
III. Tying the message together by putting it in a framework that makes it more effective.
This is why blue prints are good. Confinement produces more power and makes points more memorable. I want to pound the big truth at least 5 times in 5 different ways in a 30-minute talk.
Introduction-Make it Personal-Develop a Plan (Applications as the point)-Offer Hope-Ask for a decision-Expect Results
A. The Introduction. As we think of a message, we want to emphasize the importance of introduction and conclusion, like a flight takeoff and landing are the most challenging and crucial parts. (By the way, though I start with a general title, the title is the last thing I often settle on.)
Four purposes of the introduction (Introductions are to engage and entice).
1. Connect and develop rapport.
2. Gain attention.
3. Introduce the message and its purpose.
4. Give them a reason why they should listen.
First impressions are big. We call this the hook. Will I have them close to me or pulling away? I want them to fill energy. I want the worship and prayer to draw them to expectancy. I want to be like an excited kid about ready to give his mom an awesome birthday present.
They need the “why”: tell people this is going to be something that benefits them and it is going to be something they can relate to. If people are going to go with you, to give you “heart permission” to show something they may not be sure of, it is really helpful if they feel like you are a relatable person who cares about them. A personal connection point can help make that connection. (The 17-year-old…).
A sequence THEME-THEM-ME-GOD-US-THEM
My relatable moment is really all about a transition point, connecting people to God and a text of Scripture. It says God has something really good and important that speaks to what we are all going through.
*Slow down as you read the Scripture. You want people to grasp and hunger not for what you have to say, but what is in the Word of God. This is what creates faith and life change. Give a context, put a personality to the text, and let it speak as it originally spoke! After reading the text, I usually want to transition to 2 or 3 more reasons why this is so good and why we really need and can benefit from what God has to say about this.
I WANT TO PREPARE PEOPLE FOR A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE (GOD’S PERSPECTIVE) ON WHAT THEY THINK THEY ALREADY KNOW OR HAVE COME TO BELIEVE ABOUT SOMETHING. REMEMBER THE KEY TO LIFE CHANGE IS THAT WE REPLACE THE LIES OF THE WORLD, FLESH, AND THE DEVIL WITH THE TRUTH OF GOD.
I want them to at least say, “Ok, I will take a few minutes to consider a different side of an issue that I’ve been used to thinking.” (Sexual integrity)
B. Buckets of the Plan. In the introduction, I have established the “What” and the “Why”. Now I’m moving on to establish the “How” (Application: some ways I can apply what God says for life change. If the point is application, make the application the main points of the message/plan)
State a Point. Show a Scripture. Paint a picture.
Accept God’s Forgiveness
2. Discern the flow; what points flow best to the decision you want them to make. This is where a lot of trimming needs to be done. (What is being said that is most strategic in taking people to the place of commitment God wants them to make?)
C. Offer hope. This is the gospel. It is why the challenge and opportunity that is being given is not beyond reach. If you have a testimony, this is a good place to give it. This where we emphasize that the gospel is not about your promises to God, but about His promises to you!
D. Ask for a commitment or a decision. Unless they make a decision to do something, even if it is one small step, they won’t change.
“A sermon without a summons is a message without a purpose!” -John Stott
Aim for this to be the crescendo, the top of the wave you want to surf on, your most compelling picture and your most passionate heart cry. It is sometimes good to actually stand up and move to the front of the stage, as if you are asking for their hand to help them across the bridge of decision. Make sure you’ve left time for this.
Sometimes music can create the atmosphere. At other points in the message, you are talking to the head and the hand (will) but here you are talking to the heart-person to person. You want them to feel like they are the only one that you are talking to.
Ideas/Ways to ask for a specific response
1. Anticipate arguments- What the devil might be saying to them and refute those arguments.
2. Plead- Express God’s compassion for them in a passionate way.
3. Give vision- Paint a picture of the future they can have with a right response.
4. Encourage them that God will do this so they can do this.
5. Have a very clear, specific, and practical way for them to respond.
6. Restate major points forcefully and personally as you ask (be careful not to get side tracked on a rabbit trail with a point you forgot to make).
7. Invite people to pray a salvation prayer.
8. Write down a prayer that summarizes what you are asking God to do and pray that prayer at the end.
9. Believe and expect results. Preach for faith WITH FAITH. (Spurgeon’s explanation of why people got saved through his ministry.) Hebrews 4:2, says the message didn’t benefit them because it was not combined with faith.
IV. Examples: concluding the message:
1. Always bring the message back to Jesus and the church.
Message for single adults, How to Find a Mate.
When 1 out of every 2.5 people ends in divorce, we are not doing a great job of picking the right mate. What does the Bible say? God is not going to pick that person for you. God is not going to just bring them out of the sky. Basically, it is up to you. It is your choice. Now, he will tell you the kind of person you ought to marry. And he will tell you the kind of person you should not marry.
One lady went to a divorce judge and said she wanted a divorce. He said, “Why?” She said, “I don’t like my husband.” Judge said, “You married him. You took him for better or worse.” She said, “Yeah but he is a lot worse than I took him.” God is not going to choose your mate for you.
The other myth is there is one right person made in heaven just for you. This is not Biblical. It is not even logical. If that is true everybody would have to marry the right person or all the dominos would fall over. Let’s say I am supposed to marry you but instead I marry Kay, I just messed up a lot people’s lives, because she married the wrong person and the guy who was supposed to marry her, married the wrong person etc. There are certain perimeters God has given; within those perimeters God might have a number of choices for you.
Bringing message back to the church.
I don’t know if marriage is in your future or not but I do know this. It is not good for man to be alone. I do know that God created a family for all of us, called the family of God. It is called the church. Whether you ever marry or not you need deep intimate satisfying relationships with other believers in a family. You need that, to make it through life. Two are better than one, if one falls down the other helps him up. If you are not in a small group you need to be in a group. That’s where you get those intimate strong relationships, that’s where you learn skills that if you ever do marry, you will learn there. On a card put the word Group. This week we will have signed up for singles. (Had 500 sign up).
2. Make it personal. The person listening to your conclusion should feel like you are only talking to him or her. You don’t address the crowd at the end. You only address the individual. You may lower your voice as if you are whispering in their ear: “You know that God is talking to you right now. You know that he didn’t bring you here by accident. You are here for a purpose. Even a thousand years before you were born, God knew you would be here. Why? Because he wants to say this to you, ‘You matter to me. And I love you so much I have a purpose for your life. And here's what I want you to do…”
3. Decisions for Christ and follow-up:
Last thing the church does is take the offering at the end; everybody puts their card in including those making decisions and those not.
“If you do not want to wait to get this free packet, take this card out to the table that says, Fresh start with God. (Hand them the card.) You don’t have to say anything. They will give you the packet and you will save us the postage.” Using this approach, many more came to Jesus.
The most important decision of their life, we ask them to walk in front of a bunch of strangers and they don’t know what is going to happen. People said that it wasn’t Jesus they were afraid of, they were just shy.
After the cards were returned, we went through cards, called them on the phone that afternoon and made appointments to go visit them in their homes. Some may ask where do they make their public confession of faith if they don’t come forward? Baptism. By doing it this way we raise the visibility of Baptism.
You can use alternate ways to indicate decisions for Christ. People often feel comfortable in the back to give their card and pick up a packet rather than in a separate room. You can have them accept Christ in their seat and come forward to show it, not in order to receive Christ. Be wary of turning you invitation into works.
4. Invitation video tape
“If you have never had a relationship with God, all your life was preparation for this moment. Right now, God brought you here so you could know how much he loves you and you could start that relationship. God is speaking to you. And you know it. You know it. You know it. You can feel the butterflies in your stomach or whatever but you know it because he loves you so much. So why don’t you open your life to Christ. I mean what have you got to lose? Well, just worry, guilt, bitterness, boredom, lack of purpose in life, hell, guilt, condemnation and few other things. That is what you will lose. What do you have to gain? Everything, literally everything. Everything you have ever done wrong is forgiven, everything in the future – you have a home in heaven and you are given a purpose for living right now. Where else are you going to get a deal like that? Where else? Nowhere. I am going to pray the prayer that I prayed many years ago. And I hope you will follow me. It does not matter if you say the words or not; what matters is your heart. You can just say, ‘Me too God.’ Let’s bow our heads. I am going to pray for you first. Then you can follow me in a prayer.”
Father there are people here today who have never begun a relationship with you. They know about you but they haven’t really known you. And as best as I know how I have tried to communicate why you sent Jesus for them. Now I pray that you will give them the courage to make the wisest decision of their lives and open their hearts to you. I pray they will not reject your love but will turn to you right now.
“Now you pray; you can say these words in you mind. God knows what you are thinking; he knows your heart.”
Dear God, today I realized how much you care about me. Thank you for loving me in spite of all my faults. Thank you for caring enough to send Jesus so I could know what you are like. I admit that I have not fully realized until now how much I need you in my life and I need your forgiveness for all the things that I have done wrong. I need to know the purpose you made me for. And I need to accept your free gift of eternal life in heaven. Jesus, I don’t understand it all but I am amazed that you would care enough to want a relationship with me. So today, as much as I know how, I want to open up my life to you. I want to get to know you and I want to learn to trust you to meet the deepest needs in my life. Thank you. Amen.