There is one question that every book, every sermon, and every blog post must answer. It is the question I keep in mind as I write each of these posts and the one I use as a primary filter when I evaluate a manuscript for publication at work. It’s the question I ask every Sunday morning at church and every time I delve into a new book.
Any message or text in any medium that fails to give a clear answer to this question is, at best, a collection of boring or useless facts or anecdotes.
A sermon becomes simply information about a text, its background, some perspectives on it, or its characters. Is the main point that this Greek verb implies X and such image to the reader? So What?
A blog post is just a rant about some hobby horse or other. Or maybe it’s a critique of some aspect of culture or ministry. So what?
The book you’re reading (or writing) might be an expose on the downfall of American culture or an explanation of some theological minutiae? It might point out 7 problems we face in America today. So what?
The “so what” factor doesn’t have to be explicit. It doesn’t have to be a three step application. It doesn’t even have to be expansive, dynamic, or intense. But has to be clear and present. Without it a message is just information that has no bearing on life. Without the “so what” it’s simply the communicator showing off.
Every message should lead to something more than new knowledge. Knowledge is handy, but only if it leads to thought, inspiration, or action. But the only way to provide this in a message is to be constantly asking yourself “so what?” as you prepare it. What are you seeking to get the reader or hearer to think, feel, or do? If you don’t have an answer, neither will they.