Many books have been written which endorse picking a big idea. Haddon Robinson the author of one of the definitive books on expository preaching endorses picking a big idea. Andy Stanley wrote an entire book about picking a big idea and centering your entire message around that one idea. Blogger/pastor Dave Ferguson actually wrote a book called “The Big Idea: Focus the Message/Multiply the Impact.”
Why does everyone endorse picking a big idea? It works, it’s a great template, and makes for consistent messages.
The Passage States the Big Idea:
Yesterday, I preached on James 1:22-25. The clear message of the passage is that we need to be doers of the word and not just hearers. In this case, the big idea is easy to discover. This tends to be the case with the Proverbs and the epistles.
If the passage clearly states the big idea, don’t go searching for a hidden meaning!
The Passage Does Not State the Big Idea:
Historic narrative usually does not state the big idea. Therefore, you need to do a little digging. Here’s a greatly simplified version of the method I learned at Bible college (Columbia International University)…sorry for the alliteration.
*DISCLAIMER: While this method works for the majority of historic narrative, it does not work for all*
First off, you need to discern the following elements from the passage.
Context – What is the setup of the story? What leads to the choice the characters must make?
Choice – What is the choice the characters make? Do they choose obedience or disobedience?
Consequence – What is the result of their choice (good or bad)?
Second, form a one sentence summary of the passage which clearly states all the three elements. These sentences often break grammatical rules.
For example (and please excuse the example)
- [Context] In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were commanded not to eat the fruit, but [Choice] they chose to eat the fruit anyway; therefore [Consequence] God kicked them out of the garden of Eden and mankind fell into sin.
Third, rewrite your summary statement without the time bound elements. This will give you the primary principle of the passage.
- [Context] When God gives a command, but [Choice] we choice to disobey it, [Consequence] their are severe consequences.
Fourth, rewrite your timeless principle in a catchier form.
- Breaking God’s command’s will break your life! [sorry for the cheesiness]
These two methods won’t give you the skills to come up with a big idea from any passage of scripture, but they do give you the skills to write enough lessons that you’ll start to figure out how to discern big ideas on your own.