My friend Rick Ezell recently pointed out in his newsletter that “At the Academy Awards, since 1981 not a single film has won Best Picture without at least being nominated for Best Film Editing? Why? Because good editing makes for a better film.”
If there was an Oscar for Best Sermon, I suspect the same trend would be seem – the Best Sermon would also qualify for Best Sermon Editing, because good editing makes for a better sermon.
This is one of the realities I try to impress upon preaching students, but it’s also a reminder that we veteran preachers need to hear as well. In the process of developing a message, a faithful preacher will come up with far more content than can be used in a single sermon, whether it is designed for 20 minutes, 35, or an hour-long marathon. The availability of online sources and Bible software like Logos only makes the challenge greater.
With all that material at hand, the key to move from good exegesis to great sermon is editing. We have to identify the key biblical idea in the text, analyze what the text says about idea, and determine the best strategy for explaining, illustrating and applying that idea in a way that listeners will grasp it and engage with it for positive life change.
That’s also a reason why writing your sermon in advance is a valuable discipline. It is hard to edit what you haven’t written, and the process of writing also helps the preacher more effectively wrestle with the text and recall the message in the moments of delivery.
And it’s hard to do all that late on a Saturday night, so give yourself time to write well and edit well. It will pay dividends in sermon quality on Sunday!