Right in the middle of the campus of The Baptist College of Florida, there is a six-acre lake. Lake Albert is a great place for students and guests to enjoy a relaxing afternoon of fishing or picnicking. The lake is named for the conservationist who got the lake built.
I’ve been told that a student recently took a nine-pound bass out of the lake. I wish I had seen it. My experience with the fish in Lake Albert has been at the other end of the spectrum, the four ounces and less spectrum. Obviously, I am using the wrong gear.
I bring up Lake Albert because I want to talk to you about the turtles in the lake. They are just common little turtles. Most folks just call them “mud turtles.” Whatever they are, the lake is full of them. You can always see little turtle heads sticking out of the water. As you walk by the lake, you can constantly see little heads popping up and popping down. Here’s the point—all the turtles in the lake do not have their heads up at the same time.
I tell my homiletics students about the turtles. I tell them that congregations are a lot like the turtles in Lake Albert. No person sitting in church hovers over every word the preacher speaks. Church is nothing like a sermon delivery seminar where the evaluators are listening to every word and constantly taking notes. Practically speaking, it is impossible for all the people in the congregation to get every single idea the preacher is communicating if he only says it once!
That’s why it is imperative for preachers to repeat their key ideas as they preach the sermon. More properly, that’s why it is imperative for preachers to repeat their single key idea as they preach the sermon. You can call that key idea whatever you want. Jerry Vines called it the “proposition” of the sermon. Haddon Robinson called it the “homiletical idea” of the sermon. Harold Bryson called it the “essence of the sermon in a sentence.” Calvin Miller called it the “thesis of the sermon.” Donald Sunukjian called it the “take-home truth” of the sermon. Tony Merida called it simply the “main point of the sermon.”
Whatever you want to call your key idea, you’ve got to practice repetition of that big idea. If you speak your key idea only once or twice in a sermon, some of the congregation will not hear it. Like the turtles, their span of attention ebbs and flows. Like the turtles, their thought processes are constantly popping up and down as they listen to the sermon. Like the turtles, not all of them are focused at the same time. Consequently, if you don’t repeat your key idea, they won’t all be sure where you are going with the sermon. Repeat your key idea, and often. I promise you what I promise my students—you can’t say the main point too many times. You may think you are wearing it out, but you aren’t. I promise.
Ed Scott is Professor of Christian Studies at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, Florida.