I recently did an interview with Preaching Today. They wanted to discuss our book, The Big Idea and how we use it to guide the teaching of Community Christian Church. The complete interview will be on their website and since we did the interview in-studio they may decide to use it for their monthly Preaching Today CD. That probably depends whether they thought it was good stuff or not!? Either way, here are some of the Q & A that took place in the Preaching Today interview:
QUESTION: So that we are all on the same page in our conversation, would please take a moment to explain your concept of "The Big Idea".
ANSWER: This morning I got an e-mail from the New York Times with the latest news. That single e-mail contained more information than the average person in 17th century England would have access to in a life-time. On February 1st we published The Big Idea; that was one of 1000 books that came to print that day. We are in the middle of an era of information overload! Once, more information was a good thing - but now we are being bombarded with more information than we can ever process. And we are doing the same thing in the church - we are bombarding people with more information than they can process. From the moment people pull into the parking lot till they finally drive home they get hit with a multitude of little ideas: a different little idea in the program, singing, announcements, teaching, etc. Why is that a big deal? Because our teaching is to instruct, motivate and lead people to accomplish the mission that Jesus left for us (Acts 1:8). And if people can not process and begin to really live out what we are teaching we are all wasting our time. We believe the solution is not more, but less. We teach one BIG IDEA every week to our adults, students and children in our larger group worship services (at all locations) and in our small groups. Why? Because we want them to not just know it, but live it out. Our goal is transformation, not information!
QUESTION: What role does the sermon play in the BIG IDEA process? Chief? "Just one of the crowd"?
ANSWER: Our goal is not to write great sermons OR to produce great worship services. Our goal is to transform people into followers of Jesus. We believe teaching is key to that transformation! At CCC teaching leads the BIG IDEA process; but it is one of among many arts that make up a variety of experiences that point people toward a BIG IDEA for following Jesus!
QUESTION: CCC has adopted a team approach to sermon preparation. Tell us a bit about this process.
ANSWER: Most teaching teams that I know function like a baseball team's pitching staff. You have a 4-5 man rotation and everyone knows who is the ace. Each person takes their turn on the mound and it is up to them all alone to deliver the message. At CCC our teaching team is more like a basketball team. All 5 players are on the floor and important to the success of the team. While a play is designed for one player to take the shot all the players will touch the basketball and run the play. Everyone has a role to play and in order to score and win the game we need each person on the team. We have multiple teachers from CCC and our NewThing Network that all contribute to the content and the writing of the message. This process allows us to get a better message in less time and finish a complete manuscript several weeks in advance of teaching. While everyone does not deliver every message, we all contribute to make it a winner.
QUESTION: How could someone in a smaller church without a multiple staff adopt this method for sermon planning and preparation?
ANSWER: Here are 4 steps to implementing the BIG IDEA teaching process:
- Find 2-3 other pastors to be on your team. These are probably pastors that you like and look forward to hanging out with when you have the opportunity.
- Have a meeting to plan your BIG IDEAS in advance. All you need is a calendar and agreement on what series and themes/topics you will do each week.
- Agree on a process where you will "procrastinate early". Determine how far in advance (1 week, 2 weeks or longer) you want to have your sermon/message finished.
- Pick a time every week that you will meet. The meeting can be face to face or by phone. At this meeting you will agree on a sermon outline and then divide up sections to different members of the team to write it.
QUESTION: You plan your BIG IDEAS 1 year in advance. Would you advocate that for all preachers?
ANSWER: Yes! We waste soooo much time and mental energy just trying to decide what to teach. This kind of planning saves you all that time. This kind of planning also allows you to align an entire worship experience around one BIG IDEA. The biggest barrier to this happening is the Lead Pastor/Senior Pastor's willingness to plan in advance.
QUESTION: From your experience what are some of the benefits of the BIG IDEA for the teaching team?
ANSWER: There are more than a dozen benefits, but let me give you four:
- Better Theology: God meant for us to live in community. Like every other function of the church our teaching is better off working with others within their area of spiritual giftedness.
- Better Content: When you have multiple teacher involved and you plan well in advance you will never have a "off'" week.
- Better Illustrations: More people involved in the process results in more stories!
- Better Use of Time: What is amazing about the BIG IDEA process is that you will get a better message in about half the time.