LECTURE 9 ON SERMON PREPARATION Introduction, Conclusion, and Transition

Tell the people what you are going to say, say it and then tell them what you said, is good advice. However, if you can summarize your theme in one sentence and stick to that, then the divisions should derive from the theme and you will do well.

Consider first general rules for all.  Do not preach two sermons under one heading. You do not need to say everything in one sermon unless you are on an airplane that is going to crash!! Students fresh out of seminary tend to try putting everything they have learned in one sermon. If it is not in the purview of your theme throw it out to use some other time. Do not fill up time. Organization is the key to brevity. Do not be antagonistic and diagnose rather than prescribe. Make it personal to the extent that people understand you are going through the same struggles, but otherwise keep yourself and your adventures out of it, especially if they are irrelevant or excuses. Nothing spoils the reception of a sermon and dilutes the attention of the audience as much as telling them it was a hard week and you didn’t have much time to study, or some such excuse. Avoid unnecessary humor. Humor should arise in the context of the sermon and not be a source of attracting attention. People may love you but the Lord will not be able to accomplish much through you, but only in spite of you.

The great Ian Maclaren said three sermonettes are not a sermon and neither is a group of observations tied together by a text. There must be an organic whole and the divisions must derive from that whole. I do not suppose that any of you preach sermons with 10 or fifteen points as did the Puritans. In today’s culture you are probably going to lose the audience before you begin if you have published the outline. There will  be inaudible groans and maybe even some audible ones. The divisions should not only reflect the theme and be related to its exposition, but they should be symmetrical, and they should be organized in such a way as to ascend to a climax or show some other kind of logical development from the theme. Announcing the divisions before hand, either verbally, or in the bulletin is a good idea so that people can follow the trend of the message. It is also good to recapitulate the lessons at the end.

The introduction should excite interest and prepare the listeners for the objective. The introduction should be brief, preparatory, specific, and should be the last thing in preparation. Otherwise  the introduction will control your approach instead of the text. It should be imaginative, striking and suited to the text or occasion. With regard to the conclusion, I hear preachers all the time that just keep restating and appealing. Although the conclusion should not be too brief, it’s an important part of the sermon and should be carefully worded. Transitions are also important because all too often they are introduced by statements like “And my second point is.” Relationships, Questions, rhetorical devices are all methods, but they must be related to the unfolding of the theme. Chapell  also reminds us that in the introduction we must arouse interest. It is suggested that in the first thirty seconds of a discourse the audience decides whether they are interested. At the same time we must introduce the subject and demonstrate our concern for the audience. Avoid introductions about the context, background, and history of the text. These are to be occasional references in the body of the message, and not part of the introduction. Chapell says we should be focused, be real, be specific and be professional.  With regard to conclusions, the most important point is not having more than one. Of course this requires planning and extemporaneous preachers often make this mistake.