We are working on our ten-part series on How to Prepare a Sermon. We’ve already given you all ten steps of sermon preparation, and Part 1, Praying about your Sermon; Part 2,Textual vs. Topical; Part 3,Study the Passage; Part 4, Read the Commentaries; Part 5, Arrive at the Proposition; Part 6, Develop the Mains; Part 7, Provide Supporting Material, and Part 8, Write the Conclusion. Today: How To Prepare A Sermon: Part 9, Write The Introduction.
Yes, the introduction often comes right at the end, after you have written the Conclusion. The main goal here is to get their attention and to introduce the topic, thus “introduction”. Once you know the main thrust of the sermon and the main points, it is much easier to write the introduction.
Consider the Goal
The Introduction must fit strategically with the rest of your sermon. Too many pastors think that ‘attention-getting’ is the only goal, and thus try to do something lame like just share some cutesy humor or joke which they discovered on the internet. But once you have written the Conclusion, then the Introduction is the most natural next step. This is because, having written the Conclusion, you know where the sermon will end up, and so you begin with the end in mind. If your Introduction and Conclusion have a similar theme, then your sermon has parallelism; there is a natural matching between the two. People’s minds will come back to what you began with and begin drawing conclusions, which is what you want to happen. This is why in our SermonBase Message Planning Software, it is possible to view the Conclusion and the Introduction on the same screen so that you can view the connections and similarities between these two parts of your sermon.
Connect with the Listeners
During the Introduction, you must identify with the listeners. If you can make an emotional connection with the listeners in the Introduction, then they will be prepared to receive what you have to say in the rest of the sermon. If you are going to say something challenging in the sermon, then it is all the more important to relate to the audience so that they can connect and identify with you as a person.
Form a Natural Transition
The Introduction must lend itself naturally to the topic of the sermon. There must be an easy and logical flow from the topic of the Introduction to the topic of the sermon. It must make sense. Don’t give the listeners whiplash where you are talking about one thing over in this direction, and then suddenly we are facing the other way and talking about spiritual things with no warning. For example, a personal story about a recent sports injury may lend itself naturally to talking about physical and then spiritual health.
Introduce the Text
The purpose of the Introduction is to move people’s minds from the everyday mundane to the sacred Scriptures. So the topic must lead to the Scripture text upon which you intend to teach. Now it is important to note that in the Introduction you introduce text, you do not explain the text. That comes later during the Main Points of your sermon. Just introduce the text at hand, and explain why it relates to what you are going to discuss for the day. Then move quickly from the Text to the Proposition to the Main Points.
Don’t go too long
Some preachers spend way too much time on the Introduction. Use it as a tool to get you to where you need to go, which is the Proposition. Then launch into your sermon. Preachers make the mistake of going to long when they lose sight of the purpose of the Introduction, which is “introduce”, not “explain”.
If you have already followed through on the other eight parts of the sermon preparation process, then the Introduction portion should come pretty easy. For by this time, you have a clear sense of purpose; you have the Proposition, the Main Points, the supporting material, and the Conclusion. The Introduction will then almost jump out at you as to how you might begin the sermon.
The final article in this series relates to the Title, which can trip you up if you don’t know its true purpose.
God’s best to you as you prepare to share God’s Word with His people!
Dr. Bill Miller