The Introduction is the most influential part of a sermon.
It’s influential because if we don’t “hook” our audience from the start, they may have a difficult time hearing the rest of the sermon.
Truth is, people have a lot going on in their lives. Just like the preacher, those sitting in pews may have hectic schedules, disobedient kids, tense marriages, unfair bosses; the list can go on and on. These are the things that people’s hearts and minds are often preoccupied with when coming to church.
As preachers, it is our responsibility to pierce through all of these issues and manage to grab the attention of our listeners so they can hear from the word of God.
Let’s not be naive and think that just because you are a preacher everyone’s full attention will be on you. It won’t, unless we grab captivate the listeners’ attention from the start. I would like to share with you five elements of sermon introduction that have been very helpful for me as I prepare sermons.
I always begin with a story. A story paints a picture. Stories are superb in captivating one’s occupied mind and taking them where you need them to go. There’s something about stories that catches people and draws them in. After all, Jesus was a great storyteller himself. Whenever he wanted to communicate a point He would always use parables.
Remember, stories (illustrations) serve as a platform for biblical truth. It’s a means to an end. On the other hand, to fill a sermon with stories for stories’ sake is pointless and unfruitful.
The need answers the following question, “Why should I listen to this sermon?” or the “So what?” We shouldn’t assume that just because we’re standing behind a pulpit it warrants people to listen to what we have to say.
Nope. I know I’ve myself “checked-out” dozens of times when I felt the sermon wasn’t relevant to my life or the circumstances in my life.
Not to sound selfish, but there were times when I sat in the pews thinking, “What in the word does this have to do with me or people around me?” Now, most may not be blunt with themselves like I have been, but many say the exact same thing with their actions (i.e.: thinking about lunch after church or the things that you need to do today). Many people’s eyes are on the preacher but mind and heart may be far from it.
The need should flow smoothly from the image. For example, if your opening image (story) is about a mother who refuses to extend grace to a disobedient daughter, perhaps the need would sound something like this: We are all capable of withholding grace from loved ones. (Notice how the image and the need go hand in hand).
As a result, I have now answered the “so what?” question. In other words, what you’re telling your audience as a preacher is “you must listen to this sermon because you may be failing to extend grace to others as well.”
You now have their attention.
At this point you tell the listeners what you will be talking about. The subject answers our need. If our need is that we, too, withhold grace from loved ones, perhaps our subject can be, “How you can give grace to a loved one after they have hurt you.”
The subject is your way of telling people that you will provide a solution to their need.
At this stage I like to point people to the passage that I will be preaching from where we will discover the answer to our need. I try to mention the passage several times so to give listeners plenty of time to find it. (Note: I don’t read the text here but simply state it).
By stating the text at this point I don’t have to worry about the audience trying to find the verse while I have already started reading it later in my sermon.
No one likes getting in a car without knowing where they are going. Worse yet, imagine roads without signs. This would be chaotic. People generally like to know where they are going and what to expect ahead of time.
This is what the preview is. It communicates to people your major points. I don’t go into much detail here but enough for them to know my central points. This of course is best done with deductive sermons.
I hope this model helps you as it has helped me.
Question: How do you structure your introduction? Leave a comment below.