Good sermons aren’t scattered. They are consistent and whole.
A great sermon is like a good flight. It includes a smooth takeoff, flight, and landing. But if you have a rocky landing, it doesn’t really matter if you had a smooth takeoff and flight. Because if you don’t land the plane well, you’ve got a problem.
A well-prepared message—where every piece of it ties back to the main purpose of your sermon—leads to spiritual commitments and changed lives.
To ensure that your preaching of God’s Word lands successfully into the hearts of your members, make sure these three elements tie back into your purpose:
Tie your introduction to your purpose.
One sign of an amateur public speaker is that they tell an unrelated joke at the beginning of their message. Jokes that don’t benefit your listener or connect them to where you’re going aren’t worth the effort for a few cheap laughs.
Everything you do in your sermon should be on purpose. Your introduction is no exception. In fact, when you don’t tie your sermon to the following four specific purposes, you may lose your listeners from the beginning.
- Connect with your audience. Establish a rapport and a relationship before you can get a response.
- Gain attention. Build their appetite. People either tune you in or tune you out in the first three minutes.
- Introduce the purpose of the message. Provide your listeners a bridge to what your message is about.
- Ask the question, “Why should I listen?” Never start your sermon the same way each time. Use a shocking statement, a quote, or some related humor. One of my favorite ways to start a sermon is by sharing a story about a common life situation. This gets people nodding along: “Yeah, I know what you mean. I’ve been there.”
Tie your transitions to your purpose.
Transitions are how you shift gears in your sermon. You need to be intentional with how you use them. Category words are the key. I use phrases such as the second characteristic, the third benefit, the fourth challenge, the fifth mark of maturity, and so on. When I finish my sermon, I always look over these transitions to make sure they’re smooth, especially when I’ve interspersed other elements, such as music or a testimony. I always set up a special song or testimony with the last words from my previous point.
Handouts also help with your transitions. If your listeners can see where you’re going, it’s easier for them to follow your message.
Tie your conclusion to your purpose.
I’ve found that some of the best preachers make ineffective conclusions. They don’t press for a commitment, and their sermons just trail off at the end.
Without a conclusion, your sermons have no purpose. Golfers may have powerful drives, but if they can’t sink a putt at the end, it won’t matter. So, if you want to challenge people to make a commitment, don’t end your message with an emotional dud.
How do you press for a commitment? Let me give you my response six ways to ask for a specific decision, especially the decision to follow Jesus:
- Use arguments. In other words, anticipate people’s objections as to why they won’t come to faith, and then logically refute them.
- Use a warning. Warn your listeners about the consequences of disobedience.
- Use indirect conviction. Arouse moral indignation like Nathan did in the Bible after David’s adultery. Remember when Nathan told the story about the guy who had all those sheep but still stole sheep from someone poorer than he was? David’s indignation got aroused. That’s indirect conviction.
- Use pleading. Express God’s love and concern for your listeners and people everywhere.
- Use vision. Paint a picture of what’s possible when people follow Jesus.
- Use encouragement. Let them know that they can come to faith in Christ. No person is too far away from God. Many people you’re trying to reach don’t believe this, so you want to encourage them to believe this life-changing truth.
It’s important to evaluate where your weekend messages are hitting it out of the park—and where they’re not. When everything you do in your sermon is done on purpose, God will use your message to transform lives.