In a recent article, Rick Warren writes: If your sermons are meant to transform lives, then the titles you use must relate to life. Writing a great sermon title is an art you must develop constantly. I don’t know anyone who has mastered it. We all have our hits and misses.

If the purpose of preaching is to transform, not merely inform—or if you’re speaking to unbelievers—then you must be concerned with your sermon titles. Like the cover of a book or the first line of an advertisement, your sermon’s title must capture the attention of those you want to influence. In planning appealing sermon titles, I ask myself four questions:

1. Will this title capture the attention of people? Because we are called to communicate truth, we may assume unbelievers are eager to hear the truth. They aren’t. In fact, surveys show the majority of Americans reject the idea of absolute truth. Today, people value tolerance more than truth.

This truth-decay is the root of all that’s wrong in our society. It is why unbelievers will not race to church if we proclaim, “We have the truth!” Their reaction will be, “Yeah, so does everybody else!” While most unbelievers aren’t looking for truth, they are looking for relief. This gives us the opportunity to interest them in truth. I’ve found that when I teach the truth that relieves their pain, answers their question, or solves their problem, unbelievers say, “Thanks! What else is true in that Book?”

2. Is the title clear? I then ask myself, “Will this title stand on its own—without additional explanation?” If I read this title on an Internet download five years from today, will I instantly know what the sermon was about? Unfortunately, many compelling, evangelistic messages are hampered by titles that are confusing, colorless or corny…

3. Is the title good news? In his first sermon, Jesus announced the tone of his preaching: “The Spirit of the Lord…has anointed me to preach Good News…” (Luke 4:18). Even when I have difficult or painful news to share, I want my title to focus on the good-news aspects of my subject…

4. Does the title relate to everyday life? Some people criticize life-application preaching as shallow, simplistic and inferior. To them the only real preaching is didactic, doctrinal preaching. Their attitude implies that Paul was more profound than Jesus, that Romans is deeper material than the Sermon on the Mount or the Parables. The deepest teaching is what makes a difference in people’s day-to-day lives…

At Saddleback, beneath our how-to sermon titles is the hard-core gospel truth. A casual observer will not know the series “Answering Life’s Difficult Questions” was a study of Ecclesiastes, “Stressbusters” was an exposition of Psalms 23, “Building Great Relationships” was a 10-week exposition of 1 Corinthians 13, and “Happiness Is a Choice” was a series on the Beatitudes.

We have the most important message in the world. It changes lives, but for people to be attracted to our messages, the titles must first capture their attention.” (Click here to read the full article.)

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