You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. What a dumb philosophy. If you want a horse to drink you need to make it thirsty! That’s the job of a good introduction. It should make your audience desperate to hear what you have to say.
I start with the presupposition that nobody wants to listen to me. Why? Because inevitably there will be someone there that doesn’t. I then typically spend the first 5-8 minutes of each sermon trying to buy myself a hearing.
In addition to this, introducing your sermon properly also forces you to articulate your big idea from the beginning. Even the most attentive listeners need a little direction to know where you’re headed.
Here’s four ways I’ve recently chosen to start a sermon:
Introduce the theme– Not only will all of us die one day, but it’s also likely that we will lose people close to us before we do. Death is a brutal reality. Although it’s a tough way to begin, people are desperate for a little hope by the end of it. The story of Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus from the dead in John 11 gives us a certain hope even in the midst of severe pain.
Introduce the passage– why the wine? John 2 tells us that Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine. In light of all the cool things Jesus could have done, turning water into wine was a pretty random way to kick off his campaign. By introducing the passage this way, I tried to inspire curiosity in the audience and a desire to continue listening as I explained why.
Introduce the question– how do we connect with God? Do we need a dial-up modem like a temple or is he now accessible anywhere like 3G Internet? By exploring these competing views I tried to get my audience to ask themselves this question. When I was confident that they wanted to know the answer, I helped them to see from John 2 that Jesus is the new dial-up connection point to God, but that he is even more accessible than 3G Internet.
Introduce the conclusion– get off the fence! I recently preached an evangelistic sermon in which my big push was to get people off the fence and move them to put their trust in Jesus. Having told people to get off the fence, I then gave them two good reasons to do just that. By starting and ending with this language, I tried to make it clear what needed to happen from the very beginning.
Which type of introduction you choose will ultimately depend on the passage you are preaching from. Either way, just make sure that having made your people thirsty, you then lead them to water!
Question: What have I missed? What are some other ways to introduce a sermon? Leave a comment by clicking here.