We have our work cut out for us if we are going to keep congregants worshiping when the sermon starts. Think about it.
Who leads worship in your church? When people hear the term, worship leader, who do they think of? In most churches, most people now equate worship with the singing, not the preaching. In most churches, the sermon follows the music and singing. If parishioners equate worship with singing, what do they think is happening during the sermon? Years ago congregants were asked what segment of the worship service made them feel closest to God. The number one answer was moments of silence. Last place went to the sermon. As I said, we have our work cut out for us.
Several months ago I decided, in light of this reality, to tweak my approach to sermon introductions. My goal was to help people realize that the teaching time is a time for worship, too. Actually, I started with my prayers that I say prior to our public reading of Scripture. In that prayer I ask God to help us worship during the sermon. I ask Him to help us move from knowledge to appropriate response. Worship is, after all, the Believer’s response to the revelation of God. Then, I decided that most Sundays, after the public reading of the preaching portion, my introductions would begin with some variation of: “This is God’s Word. We worship this morning by responding to (fill in the blank with a summary of the scene in Luke’s Gospel, for instance).” At the end of the introduction, I’ll state the response that the preaching portion is intended to create.
For instance, in Luke 9:1-9 we read Jesus’ ministry description He gave to the original Twelve. So my introduction might begin with: “This is God’s Word. We worship this morning by responding to Luke’s record of when Jesus sent out His first official disciple-makers.” (Note that responding is different from learning about.) Then, my intro might end with: “This is a time for us to evaluate whether Jesus is accomplishing His mission in the world through you and me.” Throughout the sermon and especially at the end, we’ll talk about the small, but vital part we’re playing in God’s disciple-making program. We’ll make sure everyone is urged to join this ongoing mission.
I don’t want worship to stop when the preaching begins. I know you don’t, either.