- It's short.
- It's inspiring.
- It does not meander.
- It is part of the larger narrative of American history ("Four score and seven years ago") and references itself within that narrative. ("Now we are engaged in a great civil war...")
- It exegetes a moment of history ("We have come to dedicate") and yet speaks beyond that moment ("that we here highly resolve ... that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth").
In relation to Sermon Preparation, I now propose The Gettysburg Principle:
'Make your sermon only 279 Words ...(before you ruin it.)'
That is, don't write out your sermon hoping for 4000 words, beginning with a poorly conceived 'hook', and then meandering your way through the 2000 mark, while seeking to guess an ending.
Here is my plan to stop my own meandering. For my next sermon...
- I'm going to write out the entire sermon in 279 words. No more, and no less.
- I'm going to work hard choosing each of those 279 words.
- I will make sure these 279 words are the entire sermon and able to be delivered on their own. (They are not just 'the Big Idea'; or a 'main sentence'; or a goal; or a synopsis.)
- My 279 words will need to exegete the biblical text drawing from the grand narrative of the Christ story.
- I will then ask myself: Are these 279 words worth hearing? Do they take us to a new level? Do they give us a bigger vision of God? Do they propel us to new possibilities of faith for the Glory of God in the face of Christ? Do they challenge the complacent soul and give hope to the hungry heart?
- I will then deliver these 279 words to Dr. Laurel (my personal literature expert) for rigorous scrutiny.
- Then, and only then, will I add any more words or thoughts or ideas or illustrations or applications. And these extra words will be added only to explore and deepen and enhance those 279 words.
- So I may end up with a normal sermon length. Or maybe not. But only when I've gathered my 279 words will I be confident that I will neither meander, nor repeat myself.
I'll let you know how it goes.
Pic on Flickr by Andertho.