The preacher must draw lines to limit his preaching so that the church can see more clearly the limitless grace and presence of her Lord.
When I was being trained to preach three decades ago now, one of my seminary professors regularly said in homiletics class, “The art of good preaching is knowing where to draw the line.” Beyond a catchy way to capture our attention, he was teaching us an important truth about preaching. What you leave out of a sermon can be as important as what you keep in. To ensure a pointed, focused message, where you draw the line is vital.
This saying came to mind recently as I prepared a message on Ephesians 3:20-21 that I called “Far More Abundantly,” where that title is taken straight from the text.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
In the section of the sermon where I explained this phrase, I had to make some of those “drawing the line” decisions.
The first place I drew the line was with the original word of this phrase. My Greek professor and preaching mentor Ted Donnelly taught us not to get into technical explanations about the languages in the pulpit. Rather, just refer to what is needed and move on. So instead of pronouncing the single Greek word behind this phrase (uperekperissou), I chose to tell the congregation that behind the phrase “far more abundantly” there is one original word made out of three words that Paul squeezed together.