The Rules of Tension in Your Message

There is a lot to say about creating and leveraging tension in a message. It has been one of the most fascinating discoveries for me as a communicator. In an earlier post, I discussed the differences between a felt and unfelt tension. In this post, I want to discuss a few critical questions I like to use as a tension filter while developing message content. For me, every message must provide an answer or solution to one of these questions.

1. What is the question this message answers?

Every message (I understand there may be some exceptions) should provide an answer that leads to a point of application. And every answer is built upon a question. If you can identify the question at the center of your solution, you have found your tension. Now, build up that tension in the beginning of your message so you can present the answer to an audience who is ready to hear the solution.

2. What is the tension this message resolves?

A similar question from a different angle. Some messages answer a question, while others resolve a tension. Understanding the difference is key to creating and leveraging the right tension in your message.

3. What is the mystery this message solves?

Finally, some messages are built on a mystery that needs to be solved. There are plenty of mysteries in the Bible. Unfortunately, I see too many preachers giving solutions to mystery before the mystery is presented and felt by the audience. Like the previous questions, identifying the mystery to be solved provides the context for your tension content.

Every preacher communicates for action. But for people to do something, they must be interested, and they will not be interested if there is no tension. Questions, tensions, and mysteries are all interesting. As a communicator, we must learn to leverage people’s natural interest to create engagement. Asking these question not only helps you identify if there is a tension, it gives you answers to build tension into every message.

What other questions have you used to identify tension?

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