Powerful Sermon Introductions
James Merritt says that the introduction to a message is among the most important elements of your sermon preparation. Listeners are going to decide in the first 30-60 seconds whether to tune in or tune out what you are saying. Seldom does a pastor capture his audience later on if his introduction is weak. What makes a good introduction. Here are a few ideas.
The story nobody knows. Think about a personal experience that you seldom or have never shared with your congregation. Everyone enjoys learning something new about someone they like or respect. What happened to you that nobody knows about, but is applicable to this week’s message?
The story everybody knows. How about that very familiar story, the one that everyone has heard before—but put a twist on it. Everyone knows about your wedding, but what about the jitters you had the night before? You’ve told the story of your child’s birth many times, but what about the day you found out you were having a baby? Look for interesting aspects of a familiar story that will make it new again.
The movie plot. We’re all suckers for a good flick, and walking through a great movie plot lets us all have a collective memory of what we enjoyed about it. That moment when Bruce Willis realized he was dead in The Sixth Sense? Chilling. Great movie moments told dramatically make great illustrations.
The startling stat. Most people don’t like a litany of statistics, but one startling statistic can begin a message on a powerful note. Did you know that 25,000 children a day die from preventable diseases? That’s one every three seconds. Or did you know that there are 160 million orphans in the world? Kinda brings James 1:27 home doesn’t it?
The question without a ready answer. A great question posed in an interesting fashion makes a terrific introduction. The best example is “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Take a question like this and precede it with a story of—well—something bad happening to a good person. Listeners like to learn answers to tough questions. A sermon that takes 30 minutes to answer a good one is a great investment for their ears.
The statement that makes no sense. Phrases like, “When Christians fight a war, they fight on their knees”, or “Jesus said the greatest of us would be the least of us”, are concepts that only make sense to seasoned believers—and even then there is room to give detail. Interesting statements and observations make great sermon starters.
The joke? I used to love James Bond movies. They always had that first scene or two before the credits rolled that had absolutely nothing to do with the remainder of the movie. A joke can be effective if it is related in some way to the main idea of your message. Don’t tell jokes for the sake of getting a laugh—there’s no use wasting precious minutes of your message time just to get a giggle. Your preaching is more important than that. Lightheartedness is a great tool, though, if it moves the sermon forward.
Author: Eugene Mason, Communications Director for Cross Pointe Church under the leadership of Dr. James Merritt.