You probably know and have used the famous phrase, "Leeeeet's get ready to rumbleeeeeeeeeeee!!!" This introductory announcement comes from Michael Buffer, who famously introduced boxing matches. His introduction has become legendary, hyping the fight before it begins. His half-brother, Bruce Buffer, has also become legendary with his introduction for UFC fights. If you're a fan, you know the introduction well: "It's....TIME!!!" Fans know exactly how epic these introductions have become.
This blog is here to convince you to prepare sermon introductions as if they are vital to making your sermons compelling. We are not building our case for introductions off of the Buffer brothers. We are merely using them to illustrate our case for creating compelling introductions. So, what do they do in their introductions that many preachers do not do? Better said, what do they not do that many preachers end up doing?
They don't waste their words.
We listen to a lot of sermons at The Craft and many, many, many preachers waste their introductory words. That is not to say they do not think through their introductions or prepare introductions that are entirely useless. Many introductions we hear contain helpful content, but oftentimes the first seconds and minutes, right after the preacher steps on stage and/or behind the pulpit, are to some degree wasted.
Here is how they are wasted. What is said in those beginning moments is often a quick greeting and a recap of the sermon series or last week's sermon. "Good morning! Alright, so, we are in the middle of a series in Galatians, working our way through this great book. Galatians talks a lot about Jesus, justification, and the Law. We are getting to explore a lot of that together. So, I hope y'all are excited for this morning. Let's dive right into this thing...Let's pray."
The goal of introductory words such as those are to orient listeners. They answer, "Why is the preacher preaching from Galatians? What has the preacher been preaching on the past few weeks? What is Galatians about, generally?" These are all good questions to assume listeners may be asking at some point, but here is the problem: those are not the pressing questions listeners are asking right when you step behind your pulpit. In fact, preachers probably don't even think they are. More often than not preachers may communicate that kind of info merely to fill space to get them into their actual sermon, like using "um" in between sentences.
Can you imagine if the Buffer brothers started each fight with, "Ok, so, we are all here at this boxing match. Good evening! Two guys are going to fight tonight. They are going to punch each other a lot. I hope y'all are excited for that. So, let's dive right into this thing...Let's get ready to rumble!!!" If that is how they started, their introductions would not be so iconic. People would think they are unprepared for the live PPV. They would seem like they are just buying time, filling the air.
Introductory words can actually add to the main event of your sermon. Not only that, they are a part of the main event! But so many preachers' introductions are, brace for it, somewhat or entirely useless. They do not help their sermon much. They do not help listeners. In and of themselves, a greeting or recap is not a useless thing. Sometimes it is needed. It is just that those kinds of introductions are too often, brace for impact again, useless.
Why are introductions like that sometimes unhelpful? Generally speaking, because no one cares about that information in that moment and those introductory words do nothing for your sermon as a whole. They do not make your sermon anymore compelling or clear. The seconds or minutes spent orienting listeners to the sermon series the preacher is in are too often just filler words.
When you step up to preach, listeners already know exactly what is going on. They know you are about to preach, most know you are preaching from the Bible (and if they don't, they will in a few short minutes) and most know you are preaching through a book of the Bible or a topical series (and if they don't, they probably will when you introduce the main text). This is good news! This frees up precious seconds and minutes for you to focus your attention elsewhere; to communicate content that helps your sermon.
So, what should you spend time doing in your introduction? Here is one compelling option: when you get on stage, immediately begin telling an applicable, gripping story or using an applicable illustration. In this way, you will immediately begin to draw listeners in to your sermon. They will feel the roller coaster has begun and it's time to keep all hands and feet inside the ride. Punches are about to be thrown. They are being thrown! It's time to rumble! We are rumbling!
Their are multiple important effects that a focused introduction has on listeners. Firstly, it shows listeners it is time to hear from God. "It's...TIME!" It shows that the reason you stood up on stage was to preach...so that is what you are doing. Secondly, it shows you do not want to waste listeners' time. This does not mean the length of your sermon revolves around when people need to get to lunch. But it does mean you recognize we all have only so much of an attention span. It honors listeners, showing them you want to do everything you can to make the sermon as engaging as possible.
Lastly, using a compelling story or illustration sets a compelling tone for your sermon. An applicable story or illustration will draw listeners in and get them thinking about the content you are preaching. An opening story is not a parlor trick, like a joke that perks listeners' ears but has nothing to do with the sermon. An opening story has one goal: make the content more clear, vivid and gripping.
Don't waste your introductory seconds or minutes. Make them legendary for each sermon.
Next time on the blog: closing sermons.