“It is the same with men as with donkeys: whoever would hold them fast must get a very good grip on their ears.” – Russian Proverb
So it is for the introduction to a sermon. The preacher must capture the listener quickly. It is vital for the opening words of a message to command attention from the listener. If the preacher is boring in the beginning, the people in the pew will be fearful it’s only going to get worse.
Three words make up the outline for crafting the sermon introduction:
I construct the introduction of my sermons last, after the message has been formulated. Then I move to these three words and work from the bottom up.
The writing begins with always.
Always is the one thing I want the sermon to drive home. Some call this the homiletical or main idea. It is the single thought I want my listeners to grasp. It needs to be concise. The sermon will open the full flower of this main idea. When an attendee is asked what the pastor preached about today, this is the sentence with which I hope they begin their explanation.
Then is what my text says. Here the Biblical exposition is found in a single thought. The sermon will unfold much more but here is the idea of the text. This looks back to the text and springs forth from the background study done on the passage.
Now is the word I battle with the most during preparation. This is the first thing out of my mouth. These words will capture the people in the pew or leave them dreaming, looking at their phone messages or making out a list of things to do later in the week. Here the preacher should command attention.
Here are a few suggestions and ideas I use week to week in the pulpit where I have been preaching for 25 years.
- Be excited. My mother told me when I was called to preach if I was not going to study at this task please quit now, adding “We have enough boring preachers!” Look, read and listen for ways to introduce sermons. Great ideas are all around you if you will watch.
- Be confident but not arrogant as you move to the pulpit or speaking area. Your body language communicates if you believe you have something important to say.
- Humor can be a wonderful opening. Be careful not to use it too much less you are known as a comedian rather than a preacher.
- Deliver more than you promise.
- Never begin with an apology. If you are not prepared they will know it soon enough.
- Stories are the most effective NOW connections I have. Your reading will unearth the gems but it takes work. Biographies yield many of the best for me. Read in various fields. You have all kinds of people sitting in front of you.
- Anointing is essential. Just before I walk to the pulpit I am always praying Spurgeon’s prayer, “I believe in the ministry of the Holy Spirit”. After all, it is only the Holy Spirit who can make the connection and He is perfect!