A few of our Bible students at the Puget Sound Bible
Institute have asked me to write an article about how to prepare an introduction
of a sermon. I'm no homiletical expert. However, after 25 years of preparing and
preaching sermons, I have picked up a few hints that has helped in delivering
God's message to congregations I've had the opportunity to minister to.
First, you must realize the introduction is very important to the rest of the sermon. If a preacher does not get hold of his congregation's attention within the first five minutes of a sermon, chances are they will not grasp much of the rest of the sermon. The human mind can think at the rate of 750 words a minute. You can only speak about 150 words a minute. Therefore, the introduction must captivate the listeners mind as quickly as possible, otherwise they are going to be thinking about what they want to do as soon as you shut-up.
This should go without saying, but you should make the introduction a matter of prayer. Ask the Holy Ghost to lead your thoughts as you prepare. Ask Him to help you to be sensitive to the needs of the congregation you are going to preach this message to. He knows their needs better than you do.
Next, you should understand what the purpose of the introduction is. How does the introduction relate the other parts of the sermon? The introduction of the sermon is where you present your case. The body of the sermon is where you prove your case. The conclusion is where you plead your case. In the introduction you approach and assert your declaration; in the body you amplify and apply the documentation; in the conclusion you ask and appeal for a decision.
When you introduce your sermon you are trying to convince your congregation that what you have to say is important and exciting. If you do not communicate that you are excited about what you are about to say, don't expect your listeners to be excited about your sermon either. Ask yourself, "Why should my congregation to want to hear this? How does this apply to those I'm preaching to? How will it benefit them? Why am I preaching this particular message? What response do I want after the sermon is over?" The answers to these questions will help you develop a good introduction.
Try to condense the main gist of your sermon into one catchy statement to use in your introduction. This will help your listeners to get their mind on track with yours. Remember what Amos 3:3 says, "Can two walk together, except they be agreed." If you want your congregation to stay with you throughout your sermon, you must make them agree with you that this sermon is GOD'S message for them THIS HOUR!
Sometimes a good illustration that conveys the main thrust of your sermon will get your audiences attention. The delivery of the illustration must be dramatic and focused upon the main idea of what you want to accomplish in this sermon. A current event is another good tool to use in the introduction to show the relevance of what you are about to preach.
A preacher can usually sense if the "atmosphere" is conducive for imparting spiritual truth. Someone who has never heard you preach (perhaps a visitor), comes with their guard up. The use of humor in the introduction is often appropriate in "breaking the ice." This will loosen up a congregation. "Hey, this preacher ain't so bad. He's funny." Once their guard is down you can use the sword of the Spirit effectively in applying the truth of your message.
There is no hard and fast rule as to the length of an introduction. It should be just long enough to set the stage for the main points of your sermon. Shorter is better. Remember the objectives of the introduction. You don't want to lose your listeners before you even get to the main text of the sermon.
These are a few things I've learned about introducing a sermon. Preach on! Amen!
Al Hughes, Pastor
Bible Baptist Church, Port Orchard, WA
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