Using Words Well Adds Force to Your Sermon

Using Words Well Adds Force to Your Sermon

We are considering what we can learn from journalism to improve our sermons.  Here’s a link to the beginning of these reflections.  We’ve seen that adding creativity makes your sermon more interesting and impactful.  So does using a well-told story.  In this post we are going to see that using words well adds force to your sermon for your listeners.

Adding Force To Your Sermon By Using Fewer Words

You’ve been in those worship services, I suspect, where you think the preacher has come to the end of the message.  You’re ready to pack up your stuff and go on to fellowship. Then, all of a sudden the preacher starts up on another thought.  Everything from that point on gets lost in your mind, because you had checked out.  In this case, and many like it, the preacher used too many words.  So let’s look at how a writer looks at words, sentences and how to use them, because using words well adds force to your sermon for your listeners.

Omitting Needless Words Adds Force To Your Sermon

I’ve had the privilege of doing some writing for publication.  I am always amazed at how a good editor cuts the manuscript that I submit.  Here is the suggestion from one of the best-known books used for writing: Elements of Style by William Struck and E.B. White.

Vigorous writing is concise.  A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.  This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.  

An Example

Here’s an example of how to create less words in your messages.  This example of editing comes from Preaching that Connects.   

This is from a published sermon:

“The relentless creativity of God has affected my life in such a consistent manner that I’d like to share with you what I’m learning.”

How does an editor look at such a sentence?

  • Replace “of God” with “God’s.”
  • Replace “my life” with “me”.
  • Replace “in such a consistent manner” with “consistently”.
  • Don’t say, “I’d like to share with you.”

Here are some other phrases from this message.  I won’t quote the message here, but simply change the wording appropriately: :

  • I remember….   This is a useless phrase.  It is more powerful to say, “When I was a boy….”
  • Don’t begin sentences with “What”.  That makes a clunky sentence.
  • Cut out participles as much as you can.
  • Don’t tell people what you’re going to tell them.  (“The first principle I want to discuss is: give with a generous heart” becomes, “First”…

We could go on with this kind of editing, but I feel like it is already getting tedious.  The point is simply this: using words well adds force to your sermon for your listeners.  And fewer words will add to that impact.

Using An Editor?

Here’s something to consider.  Find someone you trust and ask them to edit one of your sermons.  This will require, of course, that you create a manuscript.  And it will require finding someone you trust who knows something about editing, but those people are around, and with today’s ability to electronically give your writing to someone else, you don’t need to limit your choices to people right where you live.

The motivation might be helped if you think about publishing a sermon that you are working on.  Plan on submitting it somewhere, and that will impact your choices of words and help the editor who is going to look at it.

Remember: Using words well adds force to your sermon and will increase the impact.