I just completed a very satisfying week of teaching Doctor of Ministry students at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. That’s my excuse for not creating a blog post last week. The track is called, Preaching the Literary Forms of the Bible. Pastors and professors from all over the world made up the class and, as always, the final day or so is devoted to hearing them preach.
I was amazed at how many, regardless of where they were from or who trained them, chose to begin their sermon with some kind of attention-getting device. And in all cases, their opening stories or illustrations were effective in gaining attention and initial interest. But that’s not enough.
Over and over throughout the day I repeated and restated the same thing:
“Try telling us why we need to hear your sermon. How does this Scripture function for the Church?”
Homileticians sometimes refer to this as surfacing need in the introduction and I believe in the practice for the following reasons:
- it shows our listeners in the opening minutes that the exposition of Scripture is relevant. This is critical because there are expositors who will begin their sermon and preach several minutes without ever telling their listeners that this affects their lives.
- it’s an opportunity to clearly state how we will worship God as a result of hearing the exposition of Scripture. This keeps expository preaching from being a history lesson about the Text. This reminds us that preaching is an act of worship when we respond to the revelation of God.
- it allows us to begin the process of application in the introduction instead of waiting till the end of the sermon or near the end of major points in our outline.
So, before Sunday, start with the “why?”, and not just the “what?” of your sermon so our Lord receives glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:21).
P.S. Some of you might be thinking that starting with “why” is giving too much information in the introduction. Some practice a much more inductive approach. My answer is that I want my listeners to know why this information/exhortation is being given from the start so that they can remember the purpose for our being together throughout the sermon.