Preaching Hack #1: Get the Order Right

Planet Fitness is a bit more crowded than normal in early January. People have been moved to action by their New Year’s Resolutions. There, along with scores of other out-of-shape people, you will find me and Angie doing our evening workout routine.

The 30 minute circuit is our workout of choice. Located in a room off of the main exercise floor, this workout is designed to be quick, effective and easy to follow. There are 20 stations. They are even labeled 1-20. You are instructed to do the 20 exercises in a row. You workout at each station for 1 minute with a 30 second break. There is no need for guess work or stopwatches. A stoplight has been conveniently placed where all can see. Red light means break and switch stations. Green light means work out.

Simple, right? Wrong. Once people get involved, it gets complicated. See the trio of women walk in having never been to the gym before. Do they start at station #1? Of course not! See the over zealous Middle aged man trying to get that body back to high school shape. Does he do all the exercises in order? Of course not! He randomly jumps around to different ones. People! There is an entire room of exercise equipment that you can use. Why do you have to come to this little room and mess up the workout for those who really want to do “30 minute circuit”??? In fact, there is even a big sign posted at the door of the room: “This room is to be used for 30 minute circuit only.” This sign is ignored more than the average speed limit sign.


When things get out of order, things get messy. So it is with preaching. If you do not approach a text of Scripture in proper order, your sermon will get messy. Here is a list of things that you do not want to do first when preparing a sermon:

  1. You do not want to read a commentary.

  2. You do not want to develop an outline.

  3. You do not want to look for sermon illustrations.

  4. You do not want to create a flashy title.

You will do all those things at some point, you just don’t want to do them FIRST.


The very first thing that you should be seeking in sermon prep is developing the Central Idea of the Text (CIT). The CIT is a 15-20 word statement that summarizes the meaning of text to the original audience. The first task of the preacher is not to create his own message. Rather, his task is to communicate the author’s message. The preacher must discover the author’s central theme, build the sermon around that theme, and make that theme central to all that is said in the sermon. In other words, the bullseye of preaching is to communicate the author’s message to your audience.

You may illustrate well, outline well, and communicate well. But, if you miss the bullseye in preaching, you fail.


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