When I was 21, I started preaching once a month at The Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. I didn’t know how to preach and I wanted to learn (I preached my first sermon at age 16 without a clue of what I was doing).

On Thursday nights, 100 or more homeless people filled the pews to listen to me preach my mediocre sermons. After the sermon we ate dinner together.

I had just graduated from college. I worked as a waiter, served as a home group leader and youth leader in my church (where I preached regularly to the youth), and lived in an apartment with two of my college buddies and my younger brother.

I used spare time to work on my sermons for the Rescue Mission. I didn’t have a method. I generally picked a text or two, studied the text, then wrote down a bunch of stuff to say.

One Thursday afternoon I went for a walk with my pastor. He asked me what my sermon was about for later that night. Four minutes into trying to explain what my sermon was about, my pastor interrupted me and said:


He said I wasn’t ready to preach until I could state what my sermon was about in one, clear sentence. That piece of advice transformed my preaching (more on that in this interview).

I immediately drove home and re-worked my sermon for that night. I worked on the message until I could “say it in a sentence.” I went from being a scattered communicator to a clear communicator.

This advice isn’t just for preachers. Today I came across this statement from Academy Award winning playwright, Paddy Chayefsky:

"As soon as I figure out the theme of my play, I type it out in a single sentence and Scotch-tape it to the front of my typewriter.  After that, nothing goes onto the page that isn’t on-theme."

That’s good advice. Everybody who talks or writes should listen to it. Preachers, teachers, parents, plumbers, entrepreneurs, managers, etc., say it in a sentence!

Question: How have you seen the value of “saying it in a sentence”?