How many of us have eagerly awaited the preaching of a favorite text only to hear an emphasis different than the main point? Everything the preacher said may have been true, and helpful in a sense, but it feels a bit like getting the wrong entree at a nice restaurant. It might be delicious, but it is not what was ordered.
“One main idea” refers to the timeless truth or theme of the sermon. While there may be several points to support an idea, the question we seek to answer today is “Should every sermon have one main idea?”
No doubt it is a question that elicits a myriad of opinions, but one that is difficult to answer without some clarification.
Certainly, all agree that a sermon is the preaching of God’s Word. If that is true, then our goal in preaching is to be as faithful to the Word as possible. We are reminded of Paul’s charge to young Timothy in his second letter:
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15)
Simply put, the faithfulness of a sermon is inextricably linked to faithfulness to the text. As each text has meaning, preachers are to convey that meaning as accurately as possible.
The best way, then, to preach God’s Word accurately is to exposit (or expose) the text. A definition here might be helpful. Expositional preaching is taking the main point of the passage, contemporizing it, and making it the main point of the sermon. I heard it said this way, “We are waiters for God’s Word. Our job is to get it from the kitchen to the table without spilling it.”Said by Ken Ramey, Senior Pastor of Lakeside Bible Church, Montgomery, TX. Our Lord, the Master Chef, has prepared wonderful spiritual meals for us in His Word. While there may be many sides on the plate of a text, there is but one main course. Our job as preachers is not to add or take away from this culinary delight, but to make sure that it arrives at the table in the manner it was prepared, emphasis and all.
So to answer our question, we must determine if every pericope in God’s Word has one main idea.
A pericope is defined as “an extract or selection from a book, especially a reading from a Scripture that forms part of a church service.”https://www.ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=pericope Pericopes are units of thought, sections of Scripture that speak to one central aspect. It seems that by this very definition, a pericope has one main idea.
To preach is to proclaim the clear, precise message of the King. Can you imagine what kind of hot water a herald would be in if he fumbled the main point of the king’s message? Take John 6 for example. There are many truths in the feeding of the 5000, but if you miss the main idea that Jesus is the Bread of Life, you have missed it completely. Nothing should rival the main idea of the passage.
Therefore, since a sermon is the accurate heralding of God’s Word, and each pericope in God’s Word has a main theme or idea, faithful sermons ensure that the main idea of the text is the main idea of the sermon.
In a text, there will be addition concepts, some of which should be included, depending upon time, knowledge and needs of the congregation, etc., but it is the main thrust that God intends for us to deliver. Our job as a spiritual waiter depends upon it.
This is true regardless of the size of the text. If we are preaching an entire book in one sermon, we do not have the option to either miss the main idea of the book or to emphasize another idea as equally important. Conversely, if we are preaching only one verse, it must be preached within context and with emphasis on the main idea of that unit of thought. To do otherwise is to deliver something different than what was intended.
Rodney C. Brown, Jr. is the Senior Pastor of Metro Bible Church in Southlake, Texas, and holds a M.A. in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. His passions are expositional preaching and discipleship. Metro Bible is a Southern Baptist Church that offers internships whereby you can earn hours towards your M.Div. at SWBTS.