In listening to a singer-songwriter speak about his craft recently, he said something that struck me as quite poignant. A woman asked, "How do you know a song you are working on is 'done'?" His response, "When I am making an album I know that I have to say everything I want to say in 3 1/2 minutes, that kind of economy forces me to be creative with what I am saying and how I am saying it."
As preachers we have often been led to believe that we should preach until we are done, but there are often no brackets around the sermon moment. Often preachers circle the landing field three or four times before landing the plane, as they say.
And so I have been challenging myself to paint my sermons as though the canvas is only so wide and so high. I have been crafting sermons that have a limit. In self-limiting the sermon I believe two things are happening: I am making my points in a clearer, more succinct way and two, I see fewer glances at the wristwatch.
How am I doing this? By challenging myself, each week, to limit myself to 1000 of the very best words I can use to preach on any given text. 1000 words is a lot of words, why not try it and tell me how it goes?
When I mentioned this challenge on my Facebook page it ignited a small firestorm of pushback from several of my ordained colleagues but several more "attaboy" thumbs-ups from my friends who have to sit in the pew and not stand in the pulpit. I wonder if preachers were to challenge themselves to hone their craft on a more consistent basis, more like a singer-songwriter, if we might not find ourselves with a cadre of energized, talented preachers rather than burned out, dried out, emptied out ones?
What do you think?
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