“Resonate”: The Big Idea

I have a few posts to go in my series on Nancy Duarte‘s book, Resonate (see Communicate for Change, What I Like About the Book, The Presentation Form, and Stories Transform Lives).

As one who practices One-Point Preaching (see also 5 Years of One-Point Preaching), I was especially interested in what Duarte had to say about “the big idea.”

Duarte states …

A big idea is that one key message you want to communicate. … Screenwriters call this the ‘controlling idea.’ It has also been called the gist, the take-away, the thesis statement, or the single unifying message. (78)

I like the term “big idea.” It’s the term that preaching professor, Haddon Robinson, uses. Andy Stanley, author of Communicating for a Change, calls it the main point. Stanley advises the use of a “sticky statement,” a brief statement that clearly conveys the main point or the big idea.

Duarte says there are three components of a big idea:

  1. A big idea must articulate your unique point of view.
  2. A big idea must convey what’s at stake.
  3. A big idea must be a complete sentence. (78)

Duarte offers some examples of big ideas. She notes that “Lunar Mission” is not a big idea. The big idea, as communicated by President John F. Kennedy, is, “The United States should lead in space achievement because it holds the key to our future on Earth” (79).

Stanley describes the main point as “the glue to hold the other parts together.” If done well, it presents the point in a memorable way. It’s a step that many communicators skip, but one that Stanley is convinced “makes all the difference.”

Pastors have the advantage of speaking to the same audience every week. But with the advantage also comes the challenge of preparing new content every week. I normally don’t have too much trouble narrowing my focus to a single big idea (although some weeks are more clear than others), but crafting a clear, concise, memorable statement every week can be a challenge!

That’s one of the reasons I appreciate Resonate. I believe it will help me write better sticky statements!

11 thoughts on ““Resonate”: The Big Idea”

  1. I really love the idea of sticky statements. I struggle to write them sometimes Do you have any tips or suggestions that might help me create sticky statements more easily?
    Any ideas would be grateful received. Thanks for the interesting posts.

    • Sometimes it is a matter of hearing any kind of pithy statement and reworking it either so that it is true (assuming it is not), or that it is accurate, or that it is not just naturally true-but spiritually true, or it kicks off another idea. I just read a statement today in an article about building a church ministry fast, in which it went on to say that the church may be built quick, but not strong….that lead to me think whether “speed is strength”??? Is there an example or verse in the Bible which speaks of patience and strength — Colossians 1:11 states patience takes a lot of strength?

      • too often writers of sticky or bigideas never demonstrate that the idea is biblical! that is the problem with a lot of the pithy statements going around. that is why I connect a passage, verse, story with my bigideas — so that they are founded on biblical truths — also too often the words – all, always, etc. are used and invalidate the bigidea — or the BI is stated in a way that assume all and always — i.e. –“We can’t bring about change unless we are willing to be changed. This is a biblical idea, but it’s also a risky one to pursue. -Richard Mouw” — NOT!!!! I know some characters in the Bible who instituted great change and never changed. Many principles, promises, truths of Scripture must always take into account the fact that God is a gracious God, and also that other laws are also operating in God’s world, which are just as certain as that principle, promise, or truth — see my article on preaching from proverbs!

  2. Hi, Barbara. I think the best advice I have is to write as many statements as you can.

    I’ve noticed that after I’ve written several statements, I usually get to one that just clicks, or feels right. Of course, there are also times when I settle on a statement, only to think of a better one after I’ve presented it! 🙂

    Bottom-line: don’t just settle on the first statement you write. Try to cut out any unnecessary words. Simplify it as much as possible. It needs to be as short, concise as possible.

    Incidentally, I use to write the statements on a sheet of paper (using mind-mapping). But one of the practices I’ve picked up from Nancy Duarte is the use of sticky notes, so now I write statements on sticky notes (actually, this will be part of an upcoming post).

    Hope this helps.

  3. A “BigIdea” is a truth or principle that comes out of a passage of Scripture, that is used to capture the point of a lesson or message.

    The aim of BIGIDEASDAILY is to state a pithy Bible principle that can be used to repeatedly summarize the point being made on a particular passage.

    A BigIdea is not . . .

    — “God is Faithful” — That is true, but that is just what it is, a Bible truth, not a BigIdea

    — “We need to be loving” — That is true, but it is an exhortation, not a BigIdea

    A BigIdea is a statement that is short, easily remembered, AND that has an internal relational structure. The statement establishes a relationship within the ideas of the statement. It establishes a principle that operates in God’s world.

    • Ted, thanks for your comments.

      Can you give any examples of a “BigIdea”? Sounds similar to what Andy Stanley calls a “sticky statement” or what some call a “bottom line,” is that right?

      • Hi Randy,
        Yes it is the same as Andy Stanley’s sticky statement. At Dallas TS and Haddon Robinson used the words, Big Idea.

        See Bigideasdaily Twitter for examples. Key to it is that there is a relational element in the statement of the bigidea. It is not just “God is faithful”. He is, but that is just a systematic theology statement.

        “God wants to lead in your life”– closer, but again true and a true exhortation. But it not a big idea that is sticky because it does not contain a thought that relates — actions, me, God, God’s will, how, what, where, when, if…etc

        A bigidea makes a statement that has grammatical and logical relational elements in it — I.e. Andy Stanley….”“Direction, not intention determines your destination”

        “If you are pointed the right direction, and moving, you will arrive, sooner or later, at that destination.” – Ted Martens. – Ruth closing to go with Naomi


        “When a person is on a road, and moving, he will arrive–for good or bad” – TM – king Saul 1 Sam 13-15

        “The only way to avoid the painful consequence of a bad road, is to get off as soon as one realizes it”-TM – Proverbs -the road of the transgressors is hard.

        Thanks for the opportunity to talk.



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