The importance of a first impression drives a company to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a new website. The need for a good first impression will make a guy who never shops for new clothes buy a new shirt for a first date. A good first impression could land a 6-figure job. A bad first impression could mean a visitor will not be visiting your church again.
Your sermon introduction is your sermon's first impression. It is a vital part of your sermon. Your introduction could make the difference between listeners hanging on every word and wondering what the sermon is about the entire time. Among other things, introductions unify sermons and grip listeners.
Opening scenes of movies have power. They have power to ruin a movie or make a movie gripping. Imagine an opening scene of a movie that introduces characters and plot that disappear after the scene and never return. All throughout the movie you will be looking for the return of the characters and the plot points. By the end of the movie you will wonder what the point of the scene was at all. You spent time trying to fit the scene in the movie but it does not fit. A sermon introduction that does not clearly connect to the rest of the sermon occupies listeners minds, only to frustrate them when they realize the introduction does not fit in the sermon.
On the other hand, if a preacher has done the hard work of knowing the one thing his sermon is about, and the introduction clearly sets it before listeners, the sermon has the chance to be unified. Listeners do not have to do guess work and connect the introduction to the rest of the sermon. The introduction teased listeners with the topic of the sermon and the rest of the sermon unfolded that topic. A clear introduction sets listeners up to understand the rest of the sermon. Furthermore, a compelling introduction grips listeners.
Introductions are a preacher's chance to prove their sermon is worth listening to. Listeners need to know the sermon was designed to help them. A lecture can simply announce that it will cover a certain topic. A sermon, however, must make clear that the topic at hand has to do with the personal lives of listeners. The introduction of a sermon should connect with listeners in their pains, sins, hurts, burdens, and their general mess of life. After connecting with listeners, the introduction should make clear that it will bring a solution to the problem; to their problems. Ultimately, that solution is the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
How to grip listeners in the introduction of a sermon is a topic our reports always cover and future blogs will cover. For now, let's just say that a sermon introduction should undeniably prove to listeners that the sermon was prepared for them. There is a difference in saying, "Today, we will talk about the cross of Christ" and "If you are guilty of sin as a Christian, does the cross of Christ still have power for you?" Both of those announcements are clear, but the latter has way more potential to grip listeners, making them feel they must listen to the sermon to be given a solution to their problem.