One of the most engaging TV shows (that I have come across) is the show 24. If you haven’t watched the show, it’s quite unique. Jack Bauer, the main character, works for the Counter Terrorism Unit with the Federal Government. Every new season is a new 24 hour timeframe and every episode is in “real time.” While the details of the storyline vary each season and even each episode, the main idea is the same – Jack and his team are working to keep America safe from terrorists.
In all this, I think there are some valuable lessons on preaching that we can glean from the show.
3 Lessons on Preaching From the Show 24
1. The Same Basic Storyline Can Be Engaging
The pressure is felt abundantly around holidays like Christmas and Easter. Many pastors feel as though they are preaching the same message every year and they struggle to come at the main story from a new angle.
If we take the show 24 for example, though, the same basic storyline can be engaging. The writers of the show do a great job at mixing up the situations, always including twists and turns throughout the episodes and throughout the seasons as a whole.
What we can take away from this is that there can be the same main theme during Easter, for example, but we can look at different journeys to getting there. A few weeks ago, I went from the main text in Proverbs to Jesus on the cross in one sermon (you can watch it here). This is a natural thing if you make it a point to preach the Gospel every time.
This should be encouraging for us especially when we consider that the Bible is a collective single story with many sub stories built in. You could look at the Bible as a whole as the show, books of the Bible and topics as the seasons, and individual sermons as the episodes.
2. We Don’t Have an Attention Span Problem, Just an Engagement Problem
Could a 24-week long series work? Absolutely! I don’t buy into the idea that a sermon series has to only be 4-8 weeks. They can be longer, much longer, in fact. The key is, it must be engaging. This is the reason why Mark Driscoll could teach extremely long sermon series on a book of the Bible. Many people take the time to work through a large book and then go directly to another one.
We don’t have an attention span problem, just an engagement problem. This is why 24 can afford to have such long seasons of its show, especially consider the structure of the show – you don’t have the plot resolved until the last episode of the season. It’s crazy engaging!
Don’t be afraid to do a longer sermon series. But make sure you make it engaging. Connect with people. Help them understand how much they’ll grow through the series. Connect Scripture to their life today.
3. Use This Week’s Message to Set the Stage for Next Week’s Message
One thing the show 24 does so well is they end each episode in a way that leaves you in extreme anticipation for the next episode. They do this through cliff hangers and adding a conflict right at the end.
Could it be possible to translate that into the way you structure the ending of your message? I think so. This requires you to actually know the direction for next week’s message, though, so do the hard work of preparing well and getting ahead.
In order to do this within a sermon series, you’ll want to structure each sermon as a part of the next. In other words, these shouldn’t entirely be stand-alone messages packaged together. They must build on each other.
A way to frame this would be to look at each sermon series you will be preaching in the future as a journey of discovery (or even a story). Instead of structuring it entirely deductive, come alongside your congregation and take them through a series where you’re acting as a tour guide. Make points, give instruction, of course, but don’t start there. Help people see the instruction, don’t just tell them.
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What Would You Add?
Have you seen the show? What would you add? Am I totally off base here? I’d love to hear from you!