Have you ever walked out of a church service in a daze? You know the message was good, but you don’t know what it was about. You tried to understand what the preacher was getting at, but you’re not quite sure. You look at your Bible, look at the preacher, look back at your Bible and are a little confused. He didn’t help you understand what God was saying.
Now, turn it around. Many of you who are reading this are preparing to or are regularly preaching to people. What kind of clarity do you have in your messages? When people leave your church, do they walk out scratching their heads or do they leave understanding God’s word?
There was one day when a friend asked me, “What is your message for tonight?” It was an honest question and after struggling for a few minutes to communicate what I was trying to get across from the Bible, I realized I didn’t know. That was a turning point for me. I faced the fact that I didn’t even know the point or purpose of my message.
Fast forward a year, I don’t claim to be the star model of a preacher. I try to do my best at every opportunity, but I know I have a long way to go!
My purpose is to jar your thinking about preaching. Can you tell me in one or two sentences what your message is about and what you want me to do because of it? Are you giving a collection of thoughts or a message from God? Can I look at the text that you will be preaching from and see the message there?
Crystal clarity is often nonexistent in much preaching today. Our messages are more like muddy puddles than sparkling springs. We give out murky discourses instead of the clear water of life. Who wants to drink from that??
You and I must strive for crystal clarity and biblical accuracy in all of our preaching and teaching.
Read, Explain, Teach
Simplicity is key in attaining crystal clarity in preaching and remaining faithful to the text. As you prepare your message, what is your process? What will you do when you stand to speak? In the book of Nehemiah, the people gathered together for a service and as the scribes and the Levites taught; they had a very simple plan. We would do well to consider this Bible method of teaching and preaching.
Nehemiah 8:8 – So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
- Read God’s Word Distinctly
- Give the Sense
- Cause them to Understand
Yes, this one verse epitomizes their entire method of preaching. Pretty straightforward isn’t it? What is your method? Does it line up with what was happening here?
You may say, “That is too simple. It’s just like I’m repeating what the Bible says over and over.” Yes, that’s exactly right! That’s what was going on! Also, that is the greatest compliment you could ever receive! You want people to say that your message explained what the Bible says in a clear and compelling way.
Perhaps you want everyone to think you are smart, so you come up with nifty ideas and points that aren’t quite what the Bible says. Give it up! You aren’t smarter than God! Be so careful not to impose your ideas on God’s words. We are called to be messengers; we speak what he has told us to speak. That’s all.
To go beyond our mandate as messengers of God is to tread in dangerous waters.
The entire model in Nehemiah is this: they read, then they made it simple for the people, they told them what was going on. I believe they put all that God had said in simple terms, so everyone got it. Then they taught the people. They helped them understand what God’s Words meant for them!
Three Lessons from Nehemiah 8:8
- Your Message must be God’s words | Nehemiah 8:8 – “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” – Read God’s Word clearly and plainly. We must be able to read the Bible out loud clearly. Perhaps we could even say that they were reading like it was meant to be read. When you read, do you use the correct tone and emphasis? It is a crime to read God’s word in a boring way! Have you practiced reading out loud before the sermon starts? Also, notice that the message was straight from God’s book. Your message starts with the Bible. Your message focuses on the Bible. Your message ends with the Bible. Our message must be the same message that God is giving in the Bible.
- Your Message must explain the Bible | Nehemiah 8:8 – “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.”– Always always “give the sense.” Put it in simple terms. You must explain words people don’t understand. Can you articulate what mercy means? Can you put the verses in your words? Can you explain what is happening? My mentor calls this the “Tennessee Hillbilly” reading. It is simply putting God’s words into plain terms so that people can get it. Some of us may be rushing from point to point because we don’t take the time to stop and explain what God is saying. Make it clear to people.
- Your Message must help people understand the Bible | Nehemiah 8:8 – “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.“– Finally, once you have made the text clear so people can know what God’s Word says, you must help them understand. The teachers were active agents in causing comprehension and application. They told the people the implications (What it meant for them) and the applications (What they were supposed to do.) Remember that the focus was understanding the reading. We teach and apply what God says!
When everyone went home that night from the service in Nehemiah, they understood what God had said and what they were supposed to do. Mission accomplished.
Are you working to ensure that your messages have crystal clarity and biblical accuracy? It isn’t enough to get up and dump disconnected thoughts. We must know the message that God is speaking. We must read His words. We must make those words plain for the people so they can know what God is saying. We must help people to understand what God’s words mean for them.
How about it? Will you make the commitment right now to practice crystal clarity and biblical accuracy in every one of your messages?