I saw a brainstorming technique that is used by stand-up comics to develop material. Now…I understand that stand-up comedy is significantly different from preaching the transformative and eternal Word of God…but I find the list helpful. As you can see below, it spells out the acrostic TOPICALISM.
O-rganization (i.e. the organization you are speaking to)
L-iterature (Best Sellers) [Please no editorial comments about whether ANY current best-sellers should be considered literature].
I-ntro (Program Chair–this works best for a comedian speaking to a community group)
Periodically I go through the list and use it as a brainstorming worksheet. I come up with as many current examples of each item as I can. I have had my staff do this for me as well. I am, frankly, not always up-to-date with television shows, crazes and songs. But others on my staff are. You could just hand it to selected individuals in the congregation as well. But that becomes a list that I use when I am thinking about sermon illustrations or beginnings of sermons, I glance over it to see if there is anything in any of these that would fit as an illustration or connection point in some way. It provides an “ah-ha” moment for the congregation when they hear you refer to something in the news or from the radio that they have heard of in another context. It is a reminder that the Gospel speaks to all of life.
Some would find this artificial. If so, don’t use it. But I find it is a handy tool that helps me keep current. The Word of God is ALWAYS relevant. But it is easy for me as a preacher to become less and less relevant unless I work at it.
Do you have similar tools?