I’ve been mulling a bit lately on T-units, also known as truth units. It’s a concept I learned from Sunlife many years ago. The idea being that when you provide a teaching in a ministry setting, you are communicating a unit of truth. A good talk or presentation really has one focal point.
A lot of talks, if you look at them, actually have many points. I’ve noticed a lot of sermons lately actually often would work as two sermons. There’s so much content in there and they’re pretty long. A lot of sermons I’m seeing these days are 45-50 minutes long, and I think it’s important to note that there’s not a lot of preachers who can do it for 45 or 50 minutes and do it well.
I know in the professional speaking world, a typical keynote is 60 to 90 minutes and these talks are outstanding. But what you need to understand is those speakers are giving that same talk sometimes 80 times or more a year, and they’re refining it and working it over. When we as preachers and pastors try to produce 45-60 minute talks every week, we will find that pretty tough.
In most of my messages I often shoot for about 25 minutes, depending on the topic or if it’s a topic I’m passionate about or written on, sometimes I’ll drift up towards 35-40. But again it’s pretty rare. In fact, if you’re going to be anything over 20 minutes, you’d better be hot and there better be some illustrations in there to break it down.
Anyway, I want you to think about how many T-units, how many truth units your people are exposed to in a year just through your ministry. Maybe on a Sunday morning, let’s say there’s one T-unit per Sunday with 52 Sundays a year. Let’s say they go to a small group and there’s another T-unit there, maybe 30 or 40 weeks of the year. Hopefully they’re doing personal devotions, which would be another 5-7 units a week. And most likely they’re listening to some podcasts or some other online ministry stuff and it just starts to pile up.
What we do is we put our people and ourselves in a place where there’s not a hope that we can apply the stuff we’re learning. Part of it is that we err towards teaching versus training. We’re really good at talking about what to do, what to believe and all that, but not so much how or the application side. Working on the application side is that’s taking that T-unit, that truth unit, and helping people put legs to it.
I could do a talk on evangelism talking about how important it is and people without Jesus are lost and all those kinds of things, and just layer it on. But that’s just what. The how and applying it takes some time, and maybe it takes several trainings in itself to do that. I think for a lot of us, we need to be thinking about how many truth units we’re dumping into and onto our people and how much we’re helping them apply.
There are a couple of things we can do. One, we can talk shorter or talk for the same amount of time, but really work over that one-liner. Make sure we hone that one thing that we’re trying to communicate to our people and help them to apply the thing that they need to know, feel and do.
What I did in my sermon prep is I asked that question. What do I believe the Lord wants people to know and feel and ultimately do based on this passage of scripture, this topic, or on this study. Not what I want them to feel, but what do I want them to do. When we do that, it forces us to focus down to one thing because we can’t say I want them to feel these five emotions, I want them to know these 10 truths, and I want them to do these three things. That ain’t gonna happen.
The best talks can be summarized in one simple sentence. In one sentence be able to say, “I believe these people should know, feel and do XYZ” or the one line or what we call the homiletical or exegetical idea of a passage. In Matthew 28, Jesus called his disciples to make disciples. That’s the T-unit. Jesus calls us, his disciples, to make disciples. Or this a disciple is made by going and baptizing and teaching them to obey. Something very simple like that.
So I’ve been mulling on the T-unit thing and thinking about how to go forward in ministry in these days. I’m thinking our communication might possibly needs to be more frequent but shorter. In a week, we might want to put out some content every day. Our weekly message, maybe a 20 or 30 minute message, and then devotionals or related thoughts either the week before or the week after to help people know, feel and do what they need to know, feel and do based on that content, on that truth.
So here’s the question. How will you ensure that your people don’t get overwhelmed with content, with truth units, but instead call them to change their thinking, how they’re acting, and produce growth as they’re moving ahead as followers of Jesus.
Something to think about today. Wisdom to you as you seek to be a communicator of the truth, a disciple who makes disciples.
God bless, press on.