By R. Clifford Jones
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
the introduction create interest or trigger tension? Did it bring listeners
on board by revealing need and orienting the listener to what came afterwards?
Did the introduction provide a structural overview of the sermon? Introductions
are invitations for hearers to commit themselves for the long haul, hopefully
the next 30 minutes or so. In the world of broadcasting there is a time-honored
maxim that if you do not immediately grab the interest of the viewers or listeners,
you will undoubtedly lose them. The same holds true for preaching. Much thought,
therefore, ought to go into the introduction of the sermon, considered by many
preachers to be the most challenging part of the sermon to prepare.
What makes for good introductions? Certainly not something like, "Last week we were in Ephesians 3, this week we'll be in Ephesians 4." Nothing about that statement is exciting or appealing. Stories, anecdotes, quotes, and the like have long been considered staples for introductions, and the more contemporaneous they are, the more effective the introduction will be. One other thing about introductions: they are most effective when they are not read. Especially is this true when the preacher is relating a story in which he or she is a character. And maintaining eye contact with your audience in the beginning of the sermon is a must.
I consider the title of the sermon to be part of the introduction, and how the title is announced is crucial. Long after the sermon has been preached, people will remember its title. A catchy, memorable title sets the sermon up, and causes people to adjust themselves in their seats, waiting for what is to come. The general rule is that a title should not be more than seven words and should hint at what the sermon is about without giving all of it away. A title is a contract between the preacher and his or her audience, meaning that a sermon that fails to speak to issues denoted or connoted in the title is a breach of contract. While preachers should strive to be creative and original with titles, we should remember to shun that which is jocular, jolting, and jesty.
Did the sermon reflect eye-opening biblical exegesis and well-rounded research? Sermons lacking in sound biblical exegesis are the woe of many preachers. As much as post-modernism has created a thirst for an individualized, customized application of biblical truth, people still want to know that the fare the preacher is offering is exegetically sound. Hearers still place a premium on solid, biblical scholarship that is evidenced in deep, meaty sermons. People frown on frivolous, lightweight stuff that may tingle the ears and fancy the soul, but neither nourishes nor satisfies the deep longings of the human heart.