Book Review: Simplify the Message

Even though I’m not preaching every Sunday, I still want to improve my preaching skills. As I guest preach, I have the perfect opportunity to hone a message, try new things, and gauge how different approaches with the same scripture are received. A couple of years ago, I attended a preaching workshop with colleague Talbot Davis and just recently had the change to read his book Simplify the Message, Multiply the Impact.

I so appreciated the “one point sermon” message of this book and the way Talbot has honed in on how and why this method sticks. Through real life examples and practical tips, Talbot walks through his process to Simplify the Message, Multiply the Impact. Although the process seems easy, it takes practice and a LOT of self-editing to craft a meaningful one-point sermon. 

The aspect of this method that I most appreciate is the idea that preachers would do well to develop a “sermon adventure, not a sermon outline” (Chapter 4, pg. 37). My typical “go to” sermon organizational tool is The Four Pages of the Sermon method developed by Paul Scott Wilson. Thinking through the bad news of the passage, the bad news of the world, the good news in the passage, and the good news for the world makes sense to me. Thinking about adventure makes sense to me too. And putting the two together, well, that makes a lot of sense to me. Discovering the Good News in the Bible is an adventure and I can do a better job of taking the listeners on an adventure with me.

You will help people encounter the passage when you are honest with your doubts about it, when you are playful with scripture’s oddities… and when you are convinced that the difficult work of making sense of it and then applying it to life actually have eternal consequences. 

Simplify the Message, pg. 3

Other takeaways:

  • Write for the ear. Remember that Scripture was originally heard and sermons are heard. Write that way.
  • Be uniquely you, preaching to the unique people before you. Borrow (with credit), but don’t carbon copy.
  • Weddings and funerals are unique opportunities to preach love and grace. Use those opportunities, but don’t abuse those opportunities.

Overall, if you are looking for an easy to understand and apply book on preaching, I highly recommend Simplify the Message, Multiply the Impact. If you’ve already read it, I’d love to know what you think! And I’d like your preaching resource recommendations too!

Published by Kris

Jesus follower, racing wife, mom of seven, United Methodist pastor... Trying to live a life worthy of my callings.

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