Bring in the Closer

A good closer in baseball is a frightening figure. A dominate closer is the single manned special forces unit of the team. He is the one who comes in to do one thing: shut everything down. When he comes in, the only fireworks firing off should be coming from his team's bats. His aim is to bring the whole game to a nice, smooth ending.

What kind of closer do you use to bring your sermons to a nice, smooth ending? What kind of closer do you bring in to climax your sermon for listeners? Do you think through exactly what will be said when you are done with the main body of your content? We will provide here a few tips when it comes to bringing in your closer each Sunday. Let's talk about 2 ways to not close your sermons and 2 ways to close your sermons.

Firstly, don't forget to warm up your closer. After studying a text all week, thinking through illustrations, figuring out how to explain complex ideas simply, it is understandable when a preacher does not think through how to land the Boeing 747 sermon he has cooked up. The preacher thinks, "I have my sermon, I know what to say, and I will wrap it all up with some closing comments.

The problem is that "closing comments" are often random summary statements that do not adequately sum up the entire sermon. So they feel like a turbulent, uncomfortable landing. You may make a number of statements emphasizing the last point you made at the expense of the other points you made. Listeners wonder if the last point was the most important, since your closing remarks focused on it. You may make a number of statements that use terminology that was not used in your sermon at all, making listeners think a totally new concept was introduced but not explained. Either way, your listeners don't enjoy the turbulence of a rough landing.

Secondly, don't announce you're closing. Worst case scenario, which happens often, is you think you're closing and tell your listeners you are but 10 minutes and 3 more "closing" announcements later and your sermon is finally done. Announcing you're closing when you're not is confusing and frustrating. It's confusing because listeners are now looking for 1, 3, maybe 5 minutes left of preaching. If you preach for another 10 minutes you look confused. It's frustrating because listeners think they've climbed a mountain only to hit a false summit. Who enjoys that?

So, warm up your closer and don't let anyone know you just called him in. Now, there are two things you should do with your closer.

First, summarize and/or bring complete resolution to your sermon. You may do one or both of these things, depending on your sermon. If you preach a sermon driven by main-points, you should summarize your sermon in closing. In your close, consider recapping all main-points in 1-2 sentences. Remind listeners of your main-points and bring them all together in a unifying statement. Your unifying statement explains the unified message that all three main points communicated.

You do not always need to summarize main-points because you may be preaching what we call a problem-solution driven sermon. If your sermon raised a problem, tension, or question, you need to resolve and/or answer it by the end of the sermon. For instance, you might say something like, "So, here is the question we have been asking together this morning: If God is good, why does he allow bad things to happen? Well, we have seen in the Bible that while we do not always have a satisfying answer to that question we know that God allowed a bad thing to happen to the only good man to ever live, namely, Jesus. God allowed Him to be crucified so that bad people might receive a good thing from God: His grace." Don't take off and not land; your sermon must land and taxi to a terminal. 

Second, bring your sermon to a climax. Your sermon should not end on a side note, rabbit trail, or "one last random thought". Your sermon should climax, resolving all tension or summarizing all main-points into a unifying idea. Listeners should feel that it was a good thing they listened to the sermon to the very end because the very end made sense of everything or made everything that much more clear and compelling. 

A gripping closing story that makes the content of the sermon vivid and compelling can bring a sermon to a closing climax. A creatively worded final statement that ties everything together can bring a sermon to a closing climax. In sermon prep, answer the question: do listeners need to listen to the very end? Would they want to? If so, you may been getting close to a good climax.  

At some point in your sermon prep, tell your closer to get warmed up because you will need him Sunday morning.