Imagine a cinnamon roll. If the opening group discussion is like the baking process, and the summary is the outer layers of the roll, then the core message is the ooey-gooey center. It’s why we eat the pastry in the first place, right?
The core message is the essential meaning of the passage. If the summary is a paragraph, the core message is a tweet—one key repeatable sentence that participants will remember from the study.
While there may be several valuable secondary ideas in a passage, the core message is the main thrust of what God wants us to learn. It is the idea that brings together all the bits and pieces into a whole that makes sense.
So how do you identify the core message? Here are a few tips.
- Look back over the background, key observations, and central questions. How do the smaller insights of the passage point toward one big idea?
- Consider the main problem or tension. How is it resolved? What is the passage driving at?
- Look for the punch-line. Jesus (or another character) often states the heart of the matter. Like when he says to Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house… For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:9-10)
- If there are a variety of topics and themes, then what's the center than holds them together? What’s the relationship between the different themes?
- You know you are on the right track when the big picture comes into focus, like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle fitting into place.
Taking time to clarify the core message will help you remember the significance of a passage and give you something to hang the rest of your insights on.