In 1979 Paramount resuscitated the old Star Trek TV series with the film Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Though, obviously, Star Trek became a phenomenally successful film franchise, this picture didn’t exactly get them off to a good start, at least as far as the critics were concerned.
The common complaint was too many long-drawn-out shots of the Enterprise floating through space at a snail’s pace, earning it the nickname: The Motionless Picture.
The problem was that the special effects (specifically, images of the Enterprise) were actually rather stunning, which is probably why the director gave it so much screen time.
As it turns out, however, prolonged shots of a space ship don’t really make for a great movie.
The Jedi Difference.
Compare the first Star Trek movie to the third Star Wars installment. (Return of the Jedi).
I remember an interview years ago in which a crew member said that they had spent a year creating one of the sets, and much of the set detail wasn’t even visible in the final cut. The elaborate design may have provided context for the actors while filming, but the action of the story — not the props — became the ultimate focus of the scene.
As much detail as will serve the sermon.
Here’s my point.
In the sermon preparation process, there are times when we spend hours working on a section of text to develop a point, or a sub-point, or even a paragraph, that we cover in only a minute or two. Though the content is solid, and an essential part of the sermon, it fills only a brief role in the overall structure of your message.
This often applies to how we present the historical background of the text. Having done the research, it’s natural to want to share all of it with your listeners. But too much backstory can distract from the overall content of your message.
This also applies to our illustrations. When we’ve got a good story, we have a tendency to drag it out forever. If we’re not careful, however, the illustration can take over — to the point that it seems like the sermon was about one minor illustration, rather than a multi-layered message from the Word of God.
Don’t give in to the temptation of trying to include every nook and cranny of your research. Make sure that every point, every application, every illustration fulfills its proper role in the overall message, giving only as much detail as is needed to bring your message to its call-to-decision conclusion.