What A Pop Song Taught Me About A One Point Sermon

As I have taught in both printed and video formats, I believe that the most effective sermon designs take the congregation on an adventure which leads to the unveiling of the pointed point – the bottom line or “one point” in a one point message.

I typically build to that pointed point in the early stages of the message, reveal it near the mid-point, and then employ it as very much a chorus or refrain for the balance of the talk. Some bottom line examples include …

What you tolerate today will dominate you tomorrow;
Jesus refuses to affirm you to the gates of hell when he needs to offend you into the arms of the King;
Surrender your impulses so you don’t surrender to them.

Each of those bottom lines resolved a dilemma that the early part of the sermon raised. Then, once “unveiled,” I plumbed the depths of that truth through metaphor, image, and application while repeating the line five or six more times in the sermon. It’s why so many people can repeat bottom lines back to the preacher – even many months later – in the way they never could all the points of a three point sermon. It really is verse – chorus – verse – chorus like in any well-known hymn or song.

But all that is preliminary to what I want to talk to you about today. I saw this principle executed to perfection recently – but not in a sermon. In a pop song instead.

That’s right. A pop song is teaching me to be a better preacher.

The song in question is Dawes’ “For No Good Reason,” a track off their 2016 release “We’re All Gonna Die.” Here’s the link to “For Not Good Reason”:


Why is this seemingly random pop tune – a song that, after all, never made the Top 40 much less scored as a blockbuster hit – teaching me so much about “pointed point” preaching?

Well, on the one hand, the song strings together three evocative vignettes – a young girl crying in a pool, a husband telling his wife he’s leaving, and an actor whose body is discovered after he took his own life – with the connecting thread of this chorus that is itself camouflaged in a buoyant arrangement:

Or maybe it’s for no good reason at all
Maybe it’s for no good reason at all 

That chorus, by the way, is itself not a bad answer to the myriad of congregants who claim in the wake of misfortune or disaster, “everything happens for a reason,” when, biblically, it doesn’t. But that’s another sermon for another time.

Back to this one. Dawes gives its bottom line away early – but that’s ok, we’re looking at its execution for the second half, “post-bottom-line,” of your one point. How do they do it so effectively?

Note the first scene. It begins in such innocence, as a young girl goes for a swim in the imposing “deep end” of a pool.

and looks up towards the sky,
and through a little blue world of legs
and her feet that look like they’re in flight

You’ve been there. You’ve felt that. Some of you even remember teaching your kids to do the same.

Then, for an inexplicable reason, her underwater reverie turns:

When she starts crying in her goggles
the scene becomes unclear
but she keeps peering into this underworld
through the filter of her tears

Why the change? Why the tears? What’s the reason?

Ah, that chorus, in expanded form:

Or maybe it’s the cold hard truth that makes her cry
Maybe it’s her ancient past life memories come
Maybe it’s a chemical that got into her eye
Or maybe it’s for no good reason at all
Maybe it’s for no good reason at all

We don’t know why a young swimmer turns from laughter to tears and from joy to despair … and the more we look for a reason, the more elusive that reason will be. But all in all, this first scene is heartwarming.

The second one is heartbreaking. A husband named Bill comes home from work and his wife asks him how his day has gone. Something you’ve lived through as husband or as wife hundreds of times – and, if not, you likely saw your parents enact that same ritual.

Only today’s ritual lands at a place that’s anything but routine:

[Bill] put his coat on the chair and his keys on the table
and his eyes down on the floor,
and he tightened his jaws and he thought of the cause
and effects weren’t clear anymore,
figuring out how to say what’s wrong

 He said “I know that I’ll be leaving you,
that’s all I really know,

Notice the meticulous attention to detail – eyes on the floor because he can’t look her in the eye, jaws tightened because he’s not sure he can say what he’s going to say, and even the clouds in his thinking between causes and effects. But it leads to the stunning announcement, which concludes with a moment of rare self-awareness:

there’s so much love that you’ve given me,
and so much love that I owe,
it’s with myself that I can’t seem to get along”

Why does he do it? Why does he break her heart and likely his own? What’s the reason? Dawes’ answer:

maybe he just felt the hungry hand of fate
Maybe he won’t rest until he’s seen it fall
Maybe it’s that mood that he’s in just for the day
Or maybe it’s for no good reason at all
Maybe it’s for no good reason at all

Note the movement: from heartwarming to heartbreaking.

And the song concludes with a scene that’s nothing if not heartwrenching.

An actor was found dead today in his Culver City home,
and with no evidence of foul play it seemed he’d acted on his own,

A swimming incident, complete with happy if tear-filled ending. A marital separation. And now the ultimate in self-destruction. Do you see the escalation in terms of both subject matter and emotional punch that Dawes weaves into the song? As well as that eye for detail:

the position of his body looked like he was reaching for the phone,
makes you wonder who he was gonna call

I’d say it’s hard to turn a suicide scene into any but the most repulsive of art, yet Dawes has done it. The plaintive question: “who was he trying to call?” It leads to more substantive ones: “Why did he do it? What was his problem? What was the origin story of his demise?” The answer? You got it … an answer this sad scene likely shares with hundreds of other moments of self-destruction:

Maybe all his demons were settling their debts
Or maybe all the pressure finally drove him to the wall
Maybe there were secrets that he needed to protect
Or maybe it’s for no good reason at all
Maybe it’s for no good reason,
no good reason, no good reason at all.

 In church land, we often spend an inordinate amount of time asking “why?” For most situations, our faith and our Scripture is in fact much more interested in “what now?” If you knew all the “why’s” would that make a big difference in how you live and what you value? Not likely.


But more to the pointed point for the purposes of this post, this song embodies two qualities in particular that I believe can help all of us in crafting bottom line sermons that leave an indelible mark on our hearers:


  1. Escalation. The vignettes move from heartwarming to heartbreaking to heartwrenching In fact, the opener is innocent enough that the second scene takes the listener by surprise. As you find ways to have your bottom line intersect with people’s lives, don’t begin with the highest stakes. Instead, build your way there. Yes, you’re already mid-way through the sermon, but people can still laugh. They can still relax. As much as you can, use levity to pave the way for gravity. Just like Dawes.
  2. Eye for detail. Think of the pictures Dawes painted! A little girls’ legs in a pool, a guilty husband’s clenched jaw, a dying actor’s lunge for the phone. How is your eye for detail as a preacher? Don’t be satisfied saying merely, “I went to the store.” Who’d you see there? What was it like? How did you see the hilarity that is the human race on display there? How did you see the brokenness that is life without Christ there? It’s all in the detail, which means we preachers are always on the lookout for the smallest of hints that contain the deepest of meanings.


Including even a pop song that makes me a better preacher.