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One-Point Preaching

by Randy Willis, williswired.com

One of the most impacting books I’ve ever read on preaching and

communication is Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley and Lanes

Jones (Andy Stanley is lead pastor of North Point Community Church).

Basically, the approach involves building the whole message around a

single point. This is very di erent for most preachers, who were trained to

prepare multiple point sermons; however, the authors argue, “In a preaching

environment, less is more” (13).

I preached my first one-point message in September 2006. Now, several

years later, I continue to preach one-point sermons. With some experience

behind me now, here are some of my thoughts on the book and the process of

one-point preaching.

1. Determine your goal

Stanley and Jones argue that the goal of preaching should be to “teach

people how to live a life that reflects the values, principles, and truths of the

Bible” (95). In other words, the goal is life change, not just passing on

information.

2. Pick a point

Narrowing down the message to a single point is the heart of one-point

preaching. Instead of preparing multiple-point messages, pick one point and

build everything around that point. It’s “the glue to hold the other parts together”

(103). When you have too many points, people get lost in the information. “If you

give people too much to remember, they won’t remember anything” (39).

Narrowing the message to one point is probably the biggest challenge of

this approach for many. Stanley and Jones note,“if you have been preaching for

any length of time

your challenge will not be finding the one, but eliminating

the three” (105). But it’s important that communicators do so. While “lists go on

paper … single, powerful ideas have a way of penetrating the heart” (109).

The authors suggest crafting a “sticky statement,” a statement that

presents your point in a memorable way. This is a step that many

communicators skip, but one that “makes all the di erence” (112).

I have enjoyed crafting sticky statements. The book includes some

examples on page 111, but here are some of my own sticky statements …

Oneness is God’s dream for us!

Choose your treasure wisely because your heart will follow!

God blesses the world through generous people!

To prevent heart disease, change your lifestyle.

When God calls, just say yes!

It takes a crew to complete a mission!

God entrusts his work to trustable people!

God-followers are mobile followers!

When you get knocked down, bounce back up!

God is leading a search and rescue operation!

God can do a lot with a little!

3.

Create a map

Stanley and Jones suggest a a basic map (or outline) summarized by the words,

ME-WE-GOD-YOU-WE. This map “is built around the communicator’s

relationship with the audience rather than the content” (119).

ME and WE focus on finding common ground with the audience (how the

day’s topic connects with the communicator and as many people in the

audience as possible).

The GOD section is where you talk about the biblical text, God’s thoughts

on the topic.

The YOU section is where the topic is applied to the audience. This is the

application of the message.

The final WE section is for casting vision – “you paint a verbal picture of

what could be and should be” (129). This is what it will look like if you apply this

message.

4. Internalize the Message

The authors talk about internalizing the message. They argue, “Until you

can stand up and tell a story, you’re not ready to preach” (53). For many

communicators, that sounds hard. But, “The secret,” the authors state, “is to

reduce your entire message down to five or six pieces” (137).

The advantage of this approach is that it forces the communicator to

reduce his or her material it to the bare essential minimum.“If it doesn’t support,

illustrate, or clarify the point, I cut it” (142).

5. Engage the Audience

Engaging the audience is critically important. Stanley and Jones write,

“Attention and retention is determined by presentation, not information” (146). To

engage the audience, you have to create tension and interest in the topic.

6. Find Your Voice

Chapter 6 is about finding one’s own individual style. Every communicator

is unique and has dierent gifts. Every communicator must find his or her own

style, that is, his or her voice. Stanley and Jones write, “Be who you are. But be

the very best communicator you can possibly be. To do that you must be willing

to sacrifice what’s comfortable—what has become part of your style—for the

sake of what is e ective” (170).

Changing your style is hard to do. And, the longer you’ve been using your

current approach, the harder it is to change. But, if you’re considering changing

to one-point preaching, here’s what I’ve learned through my own transition to

one-point preaching …

One-point preaching helps me to be more creative. Switching from

multiple-point preaching to one-point preaching has greatly improved my

creativity. Rather than being distracted by multiple points, I am more focused.

Because of this, I’ve been a lot more creative.

One-point preaching helps me to preach with few, and sometimes, no

notes. Being prepared and knowing my map helps me to remember most of my

content.

If you’re considering switching to one-point preaching and wondering

where to start, I’d suggest reading the book. And, you may even even to listen to

sermons by Andy Stanley at North Point Community Church’s website. Listen

for Andy’s main point and try to pick out his sticky statement, and even his map/

outline.

If you’re having trouble narrowing your message down to one point, you

could start by turning one of your multiple-point sermons into a series by

making each of your main points a sermon in itself. By the way, this won’t

necessarily make your sermons shorter, but they will be deeper, more focused,

and therefore, more penetrating.

I hope this overview is helpful to you and to your ministry!

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About the Author

Rev. Dr. Randy Willis is a pastor in the United Methodist Church, serving in the

Susquehanna Conference (a Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist

Church). Follow Randy at https://twitter.com/revdocrandy or read more at http://

www.williswired.com.